A Mosque at 9-11

No need to read an article. The headlines are clear. A hot dispute continues: is building a Muslim mosque near the site of the 9-11 bombings of the World Trade Centers right or wrong?

Because the arguments center on the question of right and wrong, I can’t help but remember a statement made about that question many years ago. In China in 1952 a man was imprisoned for his Christian faith. He spent 20 years in prison before his death in 1972. He was Watchman Nee and, “Right or wrong,” he said, “is the principle of the Gentiles and tax collectors. My life is to be governed by the principle of the Cross…” He then went on to tell this story.

A [Christian] in South China had a rice field in the middle of the hill. In time of drought he used a waterwheel, worked by a treadmill, to lift water from the irrigation stream into his field. His neighbor had two fields below his, and, one night, made a breach in the dividing bank and drained off all his water. When the brother repaired the breach and pumped in more water his neighbor did the same thing again, and this was repeated three or four times. So he consulted his brethren. “I have tried to be patient and not to retaliate,” he said, “but is it right?” After they had prayed together about it, one of them replied, “If we only try to do the right thing, surely we are very poor Christians. We have to do something more than what is right.” The brother was much impressed. Next morning he pumped water for the two fields below, and in the afternoon pumped water for his own field. His neighbor was so amazed at his action that he began to inquire the reason, and in course of time he, too, became a Christian.

A man acquainted with suffering for his faith, Nee encouraged his fellow Christians not to stand on their rights. To Nee, the principle that should govern us is not the question of right or wrong so much as whether or not we are conforming to Christ. Nee says, “We have nothing to stand for, nothing to ask or demand. We have only to give. When the Lord Jesus died on the Cross, he did not do so to defend our ‘rights;’ it was grace that took him there.”

I don’t know if it’s right or wrong to build a mosque so close to the 9-11 site. But I think I know what Jesus asks his followers to be about:

You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Right or wrong, the question provides an opportunity for the followers of Jesus to ask him, “How can I love my enemies?”