Monday, May 27, 2013

Mutually Inclusive

Many in the secular world decry Christianity as being the most exclusive religion. After all, Christianity confesses only one way to salvation, faith in the Risen Christ. John 3:16-18, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” This “exclusive” way to heaven is derided by those much more enlightened than I, labeling Christians as condemning, self-righteous and hypocritical. How could Christians be certain that there are not many other valid religious beliefs and alternate paths to salvation? “After all, and as many Evangelical Christians have argued, if you can go to heaven without believing in Christ, what's the point of faith in the first place? This certainty, in turn, lends believers a sense of authority, even power, as they have a clear standard by which to judge "who's in" and "who's out." Talk about seductive!” David Lose, Director of the Center for Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary St. Paul. MN.

It just may be true that other religions worship the same God. Unfortunately, human beings have perverted God's will by using their flawed and selfish reasoning. Many religions, even with the best of intentions, just plain get it wrong. Christianity, while also governed by flawed human beings, looks to the writings of the Holy Spirit inspired authors of the Bible. And many Christian churches have also betrayed our Lord and Savior in their misguided attempts to fix our broken world. Jesus called upon us to preach the Gospel and to make disciples of the world, but there is no earthly requirement that anyone must accept the truth of Jesus Christ. If one hears and chooses to ignore the Word, there are no earthly consequences. If one truly accepts, nothing else is necessary to receive the gifts of grace, forgiveness and salvation. One is free to continue living as they did before. But, once one receives the joy of salvation and understands the sacrifice our Lord and Savior made for us, everything changes. We are so grateful that we want to please our Lord in all we do, and obedience to His will becomes an honor and joy rather than simply rules that we must obey. Everything we are and have, are gifts from a loving God. We are imperfect, sinful human beings that deliberately disobey and dishonor our Father in Heaven each and every day. Yet, the only requirement that our God places upon His children to obtain eternal life is to believe that His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, took upon himself the punishment meant for us, His sinful and disobedient children.

Many of the more tolerant and open minded in society believe that today’s morality trumps what Christianity teaches. Many progressive churches, including the ELCA, agree with society as they call out those that hold fast to the authority of Scripture. Problem is, they are actually right and yet they are totally wrong. They are right asking why would anyone want to be a part of a religion that has so many judgmental hypocrites sitting in their pews? Well, I for one, stand accused and am guilty as charged. So does every other Christian in this imperfect world. There are no righteous human beings in this world, especially not any Christians. There is a reason that we need a Savior and Redeemer, because, if it was up to us to earn our salvation, we never could. To those who reject our Lord and Savior because of me and my fellow believers, please understand that I am a greater sinner than any of you could possibly be. I want everyone to share in the joy that faith in the Risen Christ can bring. I want everyone to come to Him and be granted eternal life. I want everyone to love and care for their neighbor.

They are wrong because God created this world for us, His children. If you want to believe that, somehow, all of this was some random comingling of molecules and just a mathematical inevitability, take a look around you. See how intricate this world and universe is and try to come to the conclusion that God did not create it. As awesome as God is, He cares for and loves each and every one of us. He wants so much to live with His children in eternity that, rather than punish us justly for our sinfulness, He sent His only Son, to take our place. Now understand that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three, but also one, so when Jesus hung on that cross, God Himself was experiencing the pain and suffering in our stead. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s act of forgiveness was accepting the punishment meant for us. Total, complete, and utter forgiveness, no matter what you have done. Just believe that Christ died for you. No conditions. There is no requirement that you face the east and pray five times daily. You don’t even have to pray at all if you so choose. Non-believers are not required to be converted or killed. There are no enemies to Christianity but the devil and his minions.

They are wrong when so many progressive churches, like the ELCA, go out of their way to be more inclusive in order to placate the secular world. Christianity could not be more inclusive as the gift of eternal life is offered to all who choose to simply have faith in the Risen Christ. John 6:40, Jesus said, “For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day." What could be more inclusive than that?

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