Last weekend the big news came from Florida, from a pastor there who planned to hold a public burning of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. He said he would cancel the book-burning when Muslims in New York City agreed to move the planned Mosque and Community center away from the World Trade Center site. (It's current site is 2 blocks from ground zero.) After dominating the headlines for several days, the Pastor called off the Koran-burning. This is the kind of publicity the Christian Church does not need. It is already difficult to convince moderate-minded, intelligent, non-churched people that we are not a bunch of wild-eyed fanatics devoted to sending the world to hell. And we're not. But proposing activities like burning the Koran makes us seem so.
Why would anyone think burning the Koran would accomplish a good end? We have all seen disturbing newsclips from around the world where people hold pieces of a burning United States flag. That is a painful image for many American citizens, those who honor the flag, those who have fought for our nation, those whose loved ones have died defending our country. Seeing other people burning our flag tends to upset us, make our blood boil. And the flag, though it is a very important symbol, is not directly related to our worship of God. No good can come from desecrating the holy symbols of other people. It only makes them angry and gives them reason to want to hurt us. Burning the Koran is both foolish and wrong.
As I was driving home on loop 410 the other evening, darkness just setting in, I saw something fluttering off to my left. It was a huge American flag. I was dismayed because daylight was gone and that flag was waving in total darkness. When an American flag is displayed it should either be taken down at night or be lighted as soon as darkness falls. It is a curious thing how quick we are to take offense when someone else burns the flag, yet we ourselves do not show it proper respect. We wear the flag as clothing - on shirts and even shorts. When I was in elementary school we learned that there were specific rules regarding the American flag. It should not be handled more than is necessary; it should never touch the ground. Why do we dismiss those guidelines and yet feel outrage at how someone else treats our flag?
In like manner, we are quick to denounce any perceived dishonor to the Bible. We disparage any decision that seems to dismiss the Christian faith. This is understandable; no one likes to see their symbols of worship, of God, treated poorly. And yet, do we honor God in our words and actions? Do we set aside a day each week (Sabbath) for rest and for communing with God and with others of our faith? Do we show our loyalty to Jesus by keeping his commandment to love others as God has loved us? Or is it only when other people seem to threaten our ideal of "Church," of "Christianity," that we protest?
If we are burning with desire to honor God we can find plenty of ways to do that. Micah says simply (6:8)"(God) has told you...what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you God?" We can honor God by striving for justice, by being kind and humble. Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might" and Jesus adds "and your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37)If we want to honor God we can do so by loving one another. No one honors God perfectly, but by concentrating our efforts on these things we can demonstrate love and devotion to God.
So let's keep ourselves busy honoring God. Let's dedicate ourselves to justice for all people. Let's work to be gracious and kind to everyone. Let's wear our love for God on our sleeve by loving the people in our lives, even those it is hardest to love. Showing honor for God with how we live is much more effective than burning books, any day.