Ecumenism. Social gospel. Liberation theology. One world government. End times prophecy. Israel. The true church.
What of these?
Please know this is not in response to any hate mail, email, articles nor any other communication directed to or towards myself.
Rather, over the years I’ve made statements in both public and private about each and all of these issues.
I happen to like and even love people who think very differently about each of these (and plenty of other) issues. It seems to me too many people create a personally defined “narrow road” quite unlike that which Jesus referred to. If one is not careful loving one’s enemy becomes impossible- and that, I seem to recall, is a direct command of Jesus to His followers.
Not tacit agreement. Not blind “whatever!”, and yet love. Hmmm. How mature in Christ are we? Do we live in faith, hope and love or fear, anger, bitterness and refusal to sacrifice in the face of cultural sins laced not only around but also within the churches, regardless of the “stream” or “sort” of local gathering of Christians you may be involved with?
My roots are in ultra-conservative Wisconsin, German Lutheran farm country. I respected and continue to respect many of the values and traits of my younger years having seen the rock-solid stability, hard work, commitment to marriage and family and how people came together to support and help one another in times of death, illness, loss of jobs and natural disasters.
Some core elements of rural America are not unlike what I experienced as a child. Thankfully, many local congregations of Christ-followers care for one another in such ways. The drug traffic is greater now than when I was very young, but otherwise much seems like what I remember of my pre-teen years in the Midwest.
My experiences then still greatly influence my thinking today though I’ve lived in inner-city Chicago most of my life.
The things I listed in the opening paragraph of this blog are the sort that some of my friends have taken up as “die-on-the-hill” issues. They are deal-breakers or friend-makers. Families have split, churches broken up and longtime neighbors have stopped talking to one another over such matters.
For the record, my -personal- response to each happen to be:
Ecumenism- Can various groups of Christ-followers believe differently and even strongly disagree on various points of methodology, doctrine and at least in some respects theology and yet be friends? Love one another? Strongly disagree and yet respect one another? Still fellowship over core things they DO agree on? I think some can. Sadly, some will not.
Social gospel- For this I simply ask the reader to respond directly to Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 25 regarding the six things He said that separate His sheep from the goats. You and I either act on each of these or we do not. What any preacher, pastor or other leader has to say simply does not carry the authority of His words and call for loving deeds. If these words of Jesus are considered “social gospel”, all I can say is there will be no good excuses as to why we supposedly loved our neighbors without serving in these most basic ways.
Liberation theology- The truth of the Gospel and the entire Bible speaks of the One I and millions believe is the true God, His Son Jesus Christ and the work of God the Holy Spirit in our lives and world. A relationship to Him liberates. Jesus told us “If you continue in my word you prove to be (or you become) my disciples. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”. As we grow and mature in Him, we reach out to help meet the needs of “the least of these” which at times brings us into direct conflict with people who are bent on personal and political power, money and that which more of it brings their way. All of this directly affects widows, orphans, minority people and in general, the poor. If you simply do a thorough Bible study on these people groups in both Testaments you’ll likely begin to understand how sacrifice and pain are often the result of bringing loving care to such outcasts. So be it.
One world government- Seems to me when this happens, and it does seem the Bible speaks of it at least in general, all the guns, ammo, lasers and whatever you’d like to list won’t mean beans. This world is NOT our home, here we have no continuing city but we seek one to come. The heroes will be those who loved as Jesus loved, not those seeking to overcome or “conquer” by force. The times, power and fulfillment of prophecy are up to God, not the church. As Arminian as I happen to be in my personal theology and doctrine, God is indeed sovereign -and to think that those who follow Jesus are somehow going to “win” without the Lord and His armies showing up in HIS timing and HIS way is in my view, worse than a sick joke. This does not mean I’m against defending my family or even that I disagree with military force. I’m saying you and I aren’t going to “make it happen” nor will we “stop it” regarding the Scriptures being fulfilled. Let’s figure out how to love our neighbor as ourselves… shall we?!!! In my view the fear, anger and priorities are just over-the-top for a great many “Christians” in my country.
End times prophecy- Yes… the Bible’s prophecies will be fulfilled in HIS time, HIS way, with or without you and I understanding or thoroughly, completely, perfectly interpreting all the Book has to say about them! If we put our efforts in faith, repentance, loving God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves I think we will be fine regardless of how things happen or don’t happen in our lifetime.
Israel- I love Israel and pray for its peace and protection. I do not support each and every thing Israel does. Do YOU my Christian brother or sister support each and every thing your fellow Christians think and do among the Christians in the fellowship the next block over from yours?? Do you honestly think God applauds and agrees with every thing Israel does? Why did HE exile them throughout much of the Old Testament? He never stopped loving them, He just hardcore disagreed/s with them (and you and I) plenty. Praying for Israel, her blessing, peace and redemption are not synonymous with full support of whatever she does anymore than you would re. your own children. The exact same goes for my nation, the U.S.A..
The true church- More and more I remind people that none of us, including me the last time I checked, own a copy of the Lamb’s Book of Life. God is the only one who truly, fully, certainly knows who is saved or lost, who walks with Him uprightly as opposed to practices and/or lives with hidden, unrepentant sin in their life. I’m not saying we should throw out discernment or never quote the several rather clear biblical “sin lists”, indeed in the New Testament letters to the churches! Not at all. There are those who follow Jesus and those who do not regardless of what sort of local congregation they are or are not part of.
The true church is comprised of all who follow Jesus in faith, love and obedience, not according to your nor my definition of these things. Jesus is the First and Last, the Beginning and Ending of all of this, not you, me nor all of us put together! As I’ve said for years, Thank GOD He’s bigger than the church.
Are there godly and ungodly people? Are there practicing sinners as well as saints, seekers and Jesus-followers in almost every local congregation? Yes. If you aren’t experienced, wise or humble enough to face that reality you might think few or even none but your own favorite flavor of Christian is truly redeemed. That, my friends, is as ignorant as it would be arrogant. God help us!
Consider this in the light of Lent, Good Friday and Easter. All are appropriate in an honest walk with God.
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn