I invite you to think of a time when you were kind, caring, and compassionate toward someone else. And that someone else can be an animal, too. Think for a moment, and when you have thought of a time, raise your hand, so we can hear some examples of being kind, caring, and compassionate… of helping others. [ Give a little time, then take and repeat responses. If the children are shy or reluctant, invite examples from the adults.]
Thank you for those examples of kindness, care, and compassion.
Now, holding those in our minds, I’ll say that we, gathered here, call ourselves Unitarian Universalists. And the next thing I’m going to say is a true and accurate fact, and that is that you don’t have to be a Unitarian Universalist to be kind, caring and compassionate. I hope this is a “no-brainer” for you all! In fact, raise your hand, if you know someone of a different faith whom you’re pretty sure is kind, carinig, and compassionate like you. [Acknowledge hands.] It’s true. In other words, you don’t have to believe the same things in order to be this way in the world. A beautiful way of putting it is: “We need not think alike to love alike.”
These wise and beautiful words come to us from a time nearly 5oo years ago, and from a place called Transylvania. They are the words of a priest named Francis David (pronounced “dah-VEED”).
Francis David was a wise and thoughtful priest who was serving in the palaces of the king of Transylvania, King John Sigismund. At the time, King John was very discouraged and upset because there was all kinds of fighting going on in his kingdom. People of different religions were fighting about the truth of their different beliefs, and King John had had enough. He was ready for the fighting to stop.
So he, being a thoughtful man, sought the wisdom of Francis David on this matter, and Francis David responded, suggesting, “We need not think alike to love alike.”
Well, King John took this wisdom into his own understanding and then he issued an edict, which is like a royal proclamation, a royal announcement. You see, kings can do this. They have such power that when they announce how they want things to be, it has an amazing effect. King John said that from now on, everyone would be free to believe as felt true and right in their own heart, even when their beliefs differed from others around them. And it would not be okay to be mean and hurtful towards people who believed differently than you.
And this was the way it was in Transylvania during King John’s reign.
So today we remember with gratitude the wise and beautiful words of Francis David: “We need not think alike to love alike.”
There are many other wonderful details to the story of King John and Francis David that I chose to omit for the sake of focus and brevity. King John was the first and only Unitarian King, and an important cause for his coming to the decision to issue the Edict of Torda, as it was called, was organizing two great, lengthy theological debates, of which Francis David was a part. King John’s adoption of Unitarianism for himself is notable, in the midst of a dominant trinitarian worldview. However, even more laudable is the fact that he chose not to declare it as the state religion; recognizing inherent value for different people, in the tenets of different faiths. His reign was not long, but his legacy of calling for religious tolerance and freedom of belief inspired liberal religious history.