For church this morning, I attended an African-American Baptist church.
The pastor was preaching about unity among believers, as well as
Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23 that whoever is not for
him is against him.
The pastor was saying that those who are not for Jesus—-in that they
believe that Jesus is the Son of God and follow him—-will not go to
heaven after they die. They are actually against Jesus, even if they
may think that Jesus is a nice guy or an insightful religious teacher.
According to the pastor, we should be rooting for Jesus. We should not
be like we’re watching a ball game and we do not care who wins.
Regarding unity, the pastor seemed to be treating unity among
believers as a criterion for salvation. He said that there will be
unity in heaven, so how will Christians fit in when they go to heaven if
they are not united on earth? The pastor did not explicitly try to
reconcile this position with justification by grace through faith alone,
but perhaps there are ways to harmonize the two. There is, of course,
the usual way that a number of Christians smuggle works into salvation,
namely, to say that the works and attitudes of love that are conducive
towards Christian unity are an inevitable outgrowth of authentic saving
faith. Another way is to say that the believers are unified around
faith in Christ: in heaven, they will be united in being “for” or “with”
Jesus (to refer back to the pastor’s point about Matthew 12:30 and Luke
11:23), as they acknowledge that Jesus is the Supreme Son of God and
praise and worship him accordingly.
The pastor shared that the council of elders’ meetings, even though
they have minor disagreements, have always ended in enthusiastic unity.
The pastor was also commenting on the current political scene. He
criticized the protests in the streets, saying that believers should
The pastor also spoke in favor of unity in the home, encouraging
people to seek therapy if they struggle with issues in their family. He
admitted that he himself has sought therapy in the past and was helped
immensely by it.
Here are some points:
A. I struggle with Christian exclusivism, and I cannot picture a way
out of that for me. I wondered why exactly Jesus put things in such
stark terms: why is a person who is not for him against him? I looked
at some commentaries: the Word Biblical Commentary and a Hermeneia
commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Most of the comments focused on
Jesus’ exorcisms and his gathering of the people of Israel, since the
context of the passages is Jesus’ exorcisms, and Jesus in the passages
contrasts gathering with scattering. The Israelites who are not
repenting in response to Jesus’ message are not contributing to Jesus’
gathering of Israel unto God; they are, in effect, contributing to the
scattering of Israel, since they are creating a situation in which some
are gathered, and some (namely, they) are not.
B. On the current political scene, I remember watching a documentary
on the Bible, hosted by Christiane Amanpour. The last segment of the
documentary was about IHOP, the International House of Prayer. I do not
recall if I learned this from the documentary, or from online reading,
but I heard that there were people who left Ivy League programs in
political science so they could devote time to prayer at IHOP. They
figured that prayer would improve the political and international
situation more effectively than any contribution they could make as
advisors and experts. I initially thought, “What a waste!” Since then,
my response has been ambivalent. Maybe prayer has worked: prayer can
soften leaders’ hearts, or God can place roadblocks in the path of
certain disastrous plans. Could these Republican health care plans have
been stalled because some Christians have prayed for that? On the
other hand, do we not need moral advisors and experts? Daniel and
Joseph were political advisors. And do we not need peaceful protest to
express to leaders what we support and oppose? I would say that the
Civil Rights movement was good, to cite an example.
I’ll stop here.
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