I have been working on a presentation I hope to give this fall in Istanbul, at a conference on the work of Turkish Muslim theologian Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, whom I have really enjoyed reading. His major work is the Risale-i Nur, a commentary on the Qur’an, and in it he seeks to demonstrate how the Qur’an is open to, and even encourages, engagement with science and other religious traditions. In one of the books I read, An Introduction to Said Nursi by Ian Markham and Suendam Birinci Pirim, they describe Nursi’s thought on interreligious dialogue this way: “For Nursi, part of the renewal he wants amongst Muslims is a greater self-confidence in the arguments for the Islamic faith that enables Muslims to enjoy the pluralist world. Like a much-loved child at home, one can venture into the world unafraid of difference and diversity because one is secure in one’s own identity.”
Isn’t that a fabulous metaphor? It reminded me of how all too often in their engagement with other religions [and sometimes even with the world at large] Christians seem to be driven by fear: fear that they will be prove wrong, fear that God’s will/order/law will somehow be compromised, fear that their faith will be shaken, fear that the church will shrink or that its voice will no longer be heard, fear that their way of looking at life and other people might change. So much seems to be at stake–no wonder there is so much anxiety! But this image inspires a different way of thinking, and suggests that we flip fear on its head, and act not out of a place of fear and vulnerability, but of confidence and trust. In this way, instead of being afraid that if we don’t cling tightly enough everything will fall to pieces, we can be adventurous–sure that God’s strong grip on us will hold.
Knowing oneself to be well-loved, secure, and protected makes all the difference in the kind of life one is able to imagine for oneself, the kind of life one is able to live. The love of God in Jesus Christ provides that kind of security, and conquers the kind of fear that would prevent it, empowering us to live a life of openness, honesty, courage and faith–arms and heart thrown open to the world. I wish this kind of “much-loved” security for each one of us–and all it makes possible.