Can you imagine a Jew or a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Hindu having more faith/trust in Jesus than the religious elite of Christianity? That would be a slap in the face.
The fact is, some modern day Gentiles may fit in the shoes of the centurion soldier.
My son gave me a book to read, Living with the Himalayan Masters, that I finally got around to reading last month. The author, a monk raised in the Himalayan cave monasteries, journeyed with a variety of solitaries from all religious traditions. After staying with a Christian mystic for four months, he came away from that experience, saying “the visions of Christ deepened my love for his teachings, and He stays in the calmest chamber of my heart as my guide and protector” (p.282).
One thing I learned is that this contemporary Gentile was open to ponder the viewpoints of the Christian religious tradition. He was seeking to learn and grow and become all that God created him to be without rejecting what others believe. I have to admit that the reports about what he experienced as he followed various Himalayan masters were incredible. But just because I can’t imagine what some people are able to do doesn’t mean my ignorance negates their truth.
The centurion in Luke was more than likely a non-Jew and an idolater. Yet he must have recognized the good work this Jewish community was doing in his region. He did not think of himself as better than them, and he gave generously to support a group that was teaching its members to be responsible, law-abiding citizens. He respected unusual abilities of Jesus and his dedication to the welfare of the people. That was enough for him. The centurion believed without reservation that Jesus could and would help him. The fact that he himself was not Jewish didn’t cross his mind. What difference should that make?
Maybe one thing we can learn from this story is that we should keep an open mind to the ways others understand the Unknown, not ignorantly rejecting the understandings of other faith traditions. My reading about the Himalayan masters opened my eyes to many similarities within our traditions. Maybe we should learn a little more about what they think. Maybe we’d learn something from the Gentiles that would help us grow in our trust in the goodness of God.