I don’t know about you, but I could use a little help when it comes to shaping my worldview. If I’m honest, hearing the phrase “religious institution” often creates a bit of fear in me. It gets my blood pumping a bit.
It’s a complex feeling. One that I’m not proud of. But whether we like it or not, we’re all going to form a worldview which shapes how we see people. What’s important is taking a step back to realize what has shaped our worldview. And at this point, I’ve let negative news headlines and people’s opinions (not facts) shape how I approach other religions. Partner that with a lack of exposure and sticking to my familiar, comfortable, Christian circle and it’s no wonder I have this feeling.
None of our worldviews are perfect. And they never will be. However, in my year and a half at Habitat Kent, I’ve learned a lot about taking small steps towards “building” peace and simply seeing all people as fearfully and wonderfully made. And for me, a big part of the realization came from exposure to Habitat Kent’s approach to interfaith work.
For the past four years, Habitat Kent has organized build days in which volunteers of different faith body backgrounds come together to serve. There’s no planned agenda. Rather, Habitat Kent seeks to create the space for everyone to collaborate through our universal language—love. Habitat for Humanity’s founder Millard Fuller explained more about this philosophy of action; “Habitat is not, has not been, and never will be evangelistic. Rather, we aggressively demonstrate God’s love by all that we do.” Aggressive love acts and unites, not theorize and divide.
The justification of Habitat Kent’s interfaith work lies simply in understanding the mission statement. “Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope.” So if someone is willing to sacrifice their time, talent, and resources to serve others, then let’s strive to bring that person together with others to multiply our impact. The need for affordable housing is too great to be exclusive.
In fact, Habitat was founded with an inclusive and interfaith basis. From its roots at Koinonia farm, Habitat brought together Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, etc. who sought an avenue for building peace. Notice that in Matthew 5:9 Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It’s easier to be a peacekeeper. It’s harder to be a peacemaker.
Doers. Peacemakers. It reminds me of a song I used to sing as a kid, “Let there be peace on earth. And let it start with me.” The phrase “Let it start with me” addresses that we’re all sinful and prone to passivity. But let us take a step further. Let peace start with us.
And while interfaith is essential in Habitat’s work, it’s important to clarify that Habitat for Humanity is characterized as a Christian non-profit. Matt Dunbar, involved with advocacy for Habitat for Humanity addressed the conversation when he stated, “Christianity can be your center without being your border.” So my question to all of us is, what’s our border?
One of my co-workers described a powerful conviction his friend had as he was applying for a job at a Christian non-profit. In the application, it said, “List three non-Christian references we can contact about your character.” It challenges us to think, are we extending beyond our own belief circles? Can you name three references outside of your faith that could validate your character?
And regardless of how we answer that question, I think we can all challenge ourselves to take an active step in making peace. Let it start with us.
Join Habitat Kent for more conversations about faith on Wednesday, March 9th from 12pm-1pm. Panelists will discuss "Embracing Justice and Mercy in Your Organizational Strategy." The discussion will be held at Habitat Kent's main office at 425 Pleasant St. SW Grand Rapids, MI 49503 and a free lunch will be provided.
In my short time here at Habitat, I've been inspired by the numerous amount of stories of hardworking volunteers, families, and staff. My prayer is that in my position as Community Outreach and Marketing Assistant, I can do these stories justice.