Dialogue Commandment #4: Compare Practice, not Ideals

FOURTH COMMANDMENT: In interreligious, interideological dialogue we must not compare our ideals with our partner”s practice, but rather our ideals with our partner”s ideals, our practice with our partner”s practice.

Another way I have heard this phrased is “never compare the best in your own tradition to the worst in the other”s tradition.” As a Christian, I am all too aware of how Christians have failed to live up to the vision of being a “spiritual house, … a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5) We are not “perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), nor have we all been able to live consistently by the rest of Jesus” Sermon on the Mount.Jesus understood a profound truth when he said to his disciples in that same sermon, “Why do you see the speck in your brother”s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). We are all to prone to project our own failings onto others. Defensively, we deny the very failings in our own lives that we highlight among other traditions.We must be clear when we are talking about the ideals, the goals, and the highest aspirations of each of our religious commitments, and we must be truthful when we talk about the actual practice of human beings within our communities.

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