A personal experience and an ugly news story came together for me yesterday.

The personal experience involved a growing abscess just behind the spot where I had a back molar pulled about five weeks ago. A piece of debris left over from the drilling/breaking/pulling process may have become lodged there, or a fragment of food that I failed to adequately rinse away shortly after. That tiny irritant settled in and attracted a colony of bacteria, which led to an infection my body tried to fight off with a large-scale immune response that left my jaw looking as it it harbored a huge plug of chewing tobacco.

Fortunately, my oral surgeon and his partner take turns being “on call” over the weekends. After preaching yesterday morning, I was able to get in touch with one of them, who kindly saw me on a Sunday afternoon, and said it was a good thing he did. You don’t want details of the treatment, which involved three shots, a scalpel, and lots of digging around to relieve the pressure and clean out the abscess.

I couldn’t help but think of that while reading the story of Florida preacher Terry Jones, whose ego-driven, attention-seeking insistence on burning a copy of the Quran has led to riots in Afghanistan, where angry mobs inspired by radical mullahs murdered innocent U.N. aid workers and caused a number of other deaths and injuries.

I do not absolve the extremist mullahs, who seek every opportunity to fan the flames of hatred against the U.S. But that opportunity was given to them by a man whose misuse of free speech and blatant disregard for human life sparked the infectious riots, which continue. Jones himself says he is “moved” by the deaths, but remains unrepentant, believing he did the right thing by destroying a copy of Islam’s sacred book.

Christians need to understand that the vast majority of Muslims are not extremist, Sharia-bound, or determined to kill every “infidel” they see. Muslims need to understand that most Christians are far removed from Jone’s hateful rhetoric.

It is entirely appropriate to state one’s preference for his or her own religious views, as is a respectful explanation of why one believes another’s views to be wrong. It is never appropriate, however, to incite hatred or violence against those hold to other faith traditions.

Jones, I suspect, is moved more by his personality than by his faith: if he had been raised in Afghanistan, I venture he would have a full beard instead of a handlebar moustache, and would be preaching hatred in a mosque instead of an almost-empty church building.

Let’s pray that the irritant in this case might find salve for his soul, and gain a greater appreciation for the Prince of Peace.

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