Wednesday, April 27, 2011

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, 17

Judging
Matthew 7:1-5

This past Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning, Charles Osgood gave a brief history of the making of the King James Bible.  Throughout his narrative he wove familiar quotes from that version, demonstrating how many of our little sayings, quotes and clich├ęs are derived from that source.  Altogether I counted a dozen and I’m sure he could have gone on and on had he chosen to:  “drop in a bucket,” “twinkling of an eye,” “fight the good fight,” “the powers that be,” etc., etc.  I suppose the origin of these sayings was quite a surprise to many of the present generation – if they’d been watching.

Two passages that weren’t mentioned, but which we often hear are:  “Judge not that ye be not judged” and “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone …” Often these sayings are paraphrased (Lincoln paraphrased the first in his Second Inaugural Address) and frequently they are used by the person who feels he is being judged or accused.

But did Jesus just give us this teaching to use as a defense for our behavior, good or bad?  Or is He instructing us to simply be tolerant toward others, no matter what their behavior?  Is He demanding moral neutrality on every issue?

There’s much more to His command to “judge not,” if we examine it in its immediate context as well as other passages having to do with judgment.

“Do not judge, in order that you may not be judged.  For you will be judged by the judgment you judge and you will be measured by the measure you measure with.” (Matthew 7:1, 2)

“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look – there’s a beam in your own eye?’” (7:3, 4)

“Hypocrite!  First take the beam out of your eye and then you’ll see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (7:5)

One thing that we immediately notice is that Jesus Himself appears to be judging in this passage.  He apparently has noticed the beams in His hearers’ eyes.  “Hypocrite” (verse 5) sounds like a judgmental word.  He clearly is referring to people in verse 6, whom He refers to as “dogs” and “pigs.”  A bit farther on He speaks of certain people as headed for destruction (verse 13), of false prophets – wolves in sheep’s clothing (verse 15).  He compares people to trees, bearing good or bad fruit and says we will “know them by their fruits” (verse 16ff).  In fact, Jesus seems to be doing exactly what He warns His hearers against doing!  Is He telling us, “Do as I say, not as I do?”

Well I suppose we might say that, if we take verse 1 as it is interpreted in popular usage.  But if we make the reasonable assumption that Jesus does not violate His own moral standards, then we have to ask, exactly what is He warning against?

The Greek word translated “judge” here is KRINO, which very much like our English word, has a broad range of meaning.   Some of the possible meanings are:  administer justice; criticize; find fault with; condemn; hand over for punishment; but it can also have the meaning of decide, discern or distinguish.

In the preceding context (chapter 6), He has been warning His hearers against hypocrisy, greed and worry.  If we go farther back (5:17-48), He has warned His hearers of thinking that God’s Law is merely external.  He has demanded moral perfection (5:20, 48).

So it’s possible for one to take all these moral requirements and use them as a standard for evaluating others, to look around and comfort myself by noting that the others around me are no more living up to Jesus’ standards then I am.  I believe that this is one danger that Jesus is warning against here:  finding fault, criticizing, even condemning my brother.

There are two possible ways of understanding the warnings in verses 1 and 2.  They may mean that the standards we use on others will be the standards they use on us.  This would serve as a lead-in to verse 12, “the golden rule.”  “Whatever you want people to do to you, so you do to them.”

But it could also be saying that the moral standards we use in judging others will be the standards to which God holds us accountable in His judging us.  This is what Paul clearly says in Romans 2:1:  “Therefore, you are inexcusable O man, everyone who judges, for in that you judge the other, you condemn yourself, for you who judge practice the same thing.”

I hope we can all see Jesus’ sense of humor in His illustration (verses 3, 4):  a guy with a 2x4 sticking out of his eye, groping at the eye of the second person, trying to clean out his eye while banging him and anyone else around.  I can imagine that it would be impossible to help the brother without bruising him or even breaking his bones with the wildly swinging 2x4.  Definitely doing more harm than good, if any good could be accomplished.  Perhaps the illustration is implying that sometimes our good intention – to help our brother – can actually do him (and others) more serious damage than his original problem.
 
It is easy and dangerous to stop at verse 4, because it is the next verse (5) that tells us what we should be doing.  We should be helping our brother deal with his fault.  The warning is against attempting to deal with our brother before dealing with my own sins and faults.  I am to make sure my sins have been dealt with through repentance and confession.  Paul again:  “Brothers, if a person is caught in some trespass, you the spiritual, restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness (see Matthew 5:5), looking at yourself lest you also should be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

Notice that in neither situation are we to just ignore our brother’s fault or sin.  We aren’t to use these passages as an excuse.  “Well, I can’t help him; I’ve got faults of my own to deal with!”  What Jesus (and Paul) is saying is something like, “Deal with your sin.  Then help your brother with his!”  In fact, it is only when we have done so that we will be able to help our brother.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

WHO CARES ABOUT THE POOR?

I have often heard (or read) mantras similar to the following spoken by Christians – often by those who themselves are giving people, who take seriously the passages about caring for the poor:
·        “It’s not the government’s responsibility to feed the poor.”
·        “If the church was taking care of its responsibility of feeding the poor, the government wouldn’t have to.” 

But are these sayings true?  Is it even the church’s responsibility to feed all the poor?  And if it is, do we even have the resources to do so?  It would seem to me that with the number of poor increasing, the mathematics would demonstrate that it is an impossible task for the church alone to fulfill.  So then whose responsibility are the poor? 

The New Testament seems clear that we believers have a responsibility to provide for the material needs of our families and of our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as others.  (See:  POOR PEOPLE.) 

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). 

“If a brother or sister is naked and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you don’t give them their daily bodily needs, what use is that?’” (James 2:15, 16). 

And Jesus spoke also of giving to the poor – the poor in general, without a qualifier.  In fact, He seems to make that a requirement for discipleship (Matthew 19:21).  An examination of both the Old and New Testaments show that God is concerned about the poor. 

In the Torah – the Old Testament books of the Law, God made numerous provisions for the care of the poor and needy:
·        The release of debt every seventh (sabbath) year as well as the 50th (Jubilee) year (Deuteronomy 15:1-11; Leviticus 25:1-55).
·        During the seventh year the land was to “rest and lie fallow” and be left for the needy to eat (Exodus 23:10, 11).
·        The ‘gleaning’ laws.  The Israelites were not to harvest their fields or vineyards clean, but were to leave some for “the poor and the alien” ((Leviticus 19:9, 10; Deuteronomy 25:19-22).
·        Fair lending practices (Exodus 22:24-26; Deuteronomy 24:10-13).
·        Fair wages, paid every day (Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14, 15).
·        A full tithe (10%) of their produce was to be set aside every third year for the Levite … the alien, the orphan and the widow” (Deuteronomy 14:28, 29; 26:12, 13).  This was considered a “second tithe,” apparently over and above the regular tithe.  We should also remember that the tithe was a requirement, more like a tax.  It was not a freewill offering.
Solomon’s prayer for himself and his kingdom in Psalm 72, while it contains many requests for prosperity and expansion, also contains requests for himself as a benefactor of the poor and an administrator of social justice.  Many scholars regard this as a Messianic Psalm, in which Solomon’s reign prefigures that of the coming Messiah.  Nevertheless it gives us a picture of what God expects of the king over His people. 

Psalm 72:
“Of Solomon
O God, give Your judgments to the king,
And Your righteousness to the King’s son. (1)
May he judge Your people with righteousness,
And Your lowly ones with justice. (2)
May he give justice to the lowly of the people,
Save the children of the needy,
And crush their oppressors. (4)
For he rescues the needy who cries out,
And the lowly and the one who has no helper. (12)
He has compassion on the poor and needy
And saves the lives of the needy. (13)
He redeems them from fraud and violence,
And their blood is precious in his eyes.” (14) 

It would seem that, while God had given laws to His people regarding social justice, it was the king’s responsibility to see that these laws were carried out. 

The situation is different today.  In Moses’ and even in Solomon’s day, the government was a theocracy.  We might say that “church” and “state” were one.  We – God’s people, the church – live under a different dispensation.  The government under which we live is a secular government.  So we might ask if God’s requirements of care for the poor have changed.  In other words, does the government of the United States of America have any responsibility toward the poor?  Or are the statements in the first lines of this post correct? 

I contend that God holds human governments accountable for what is known as “social justice.”  Our government is responsible for the poor and needy, for their provision and protection.
According to Romans 13:1-5 and 1 Peter 2:14, God has established human government to punish evil and reward good, or in other words, to promote justice.  (See:  WHAT ABOUT ROMANS 13? and THE TWO KINGDOMS.)  Because the New Testament gives little detail as to the various aspects of justice, I believe we can legitimately infer that social justice is one very important aspect.
If this is so, then we who are citizens of a representative democracy are members of that government and are responsible to cast our votes and make our thoughts known as to our government’s care for the poor and underprivileged.
More later.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

WHO CAN BE SAVED?

A while back, I received the following e-mail from a friend:

Hi Bill and Uni, I read your blog today and as usual, benefitted from it.  I have a question for you:  can a person become a Christian without knowing Jesus' name...or to make it more interesting, without knowing God has a Son?

I do believe that we are responsible for the light that God has revealed to us.  I also heard a former Muslim tell a story about an Iranian man who had a dream about God.  In his dream, God told him to go to this bookstore (in Iran) and there, he would find the 'Gospel of Jesus.'  The next day he went to the bookstore, asked for the Gospel of Jesus and was told there wasn't a book like that in the store.  A Christian overheard the conversation, followed him outside and told him: "I have the Gospel of Jesus for you."  Apparently, God revealed to this man the name of Jesus.

Please, when you have a little time, let me know what you think.

Love you two,
Susan

The following (with a few changes and additions) was my reply.

Susan:

I always appreciate your e-mails – especially when you make comments or ask questions to stir my thinking.

I assume you're referring to my posts: THROWING OUT THE BABY and AMERICAN GRACE .   In these I tried to deal with the two questions that trouble many of us believers, though I realize I barely scratched the surface in dealing with them.

The two questions are closely related.  The first is:  Is Jesus the only way of salvation?  The second is:  What becomes of those who are not saved?  There are, of course, many different ways to phrase these.  Your questions seem to be a form of the first.

The way you phrased it, I'd have to give an emphatic “No!”  One cannot be a "Christian" without knowing Jesus' name or without knowing that God has a Son.  But if we rephrase it and ask, "Can a person be saved without ...," which is what I think you meant, the question gets a bit stickier.  (The words “saved” and “Christian” are not synonymous.  See:  WHAT MUST I DO? and BRAND LOYALTY.)  We all believe there are exceptions.   At least for (as it used to be phrased "infants and idiots") -- those incapable of exercising saving faith, as even the Westminster Confession, that great Calvinist document, says (chapter X, paragraph III).  We also recognize that Old Testament saints exercised faith in God's promise, without a (clear?) knowledge of the future work of Christ, and were justified by that faith (see Romans 4:3; Hebrews 11 and ARE THEY OUT OF LUCK?.  Then we must recognize too that God has revealed Himself to all through nature and conscience (Romans 1:19, 20; 2:14-16).  Does this leave the door open for more?  Some very sincere Christians believe so.  I would like to think so, but I find little if any hard evidence to that effect.

As far as the story of the Muslim who was given a revelation in a dream, I see no reason to doubt its truthfulness.  I have heard similar stories. In fact, it sounds very much like the story of Cornelius recorded in Acts 10.  Here was someone who was "a devout man and one who feared God" (verse 2).  The experience with Cornelius was evidence to Peter that "God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation, the one who fears Him and does right is acceptable to Him" (verses 34, 35).  However, we need to recognize that Cornelius wasn't "saved" until he heard the gospel (verses 36-48).  The same is undoubtedly the case with the Muslim man in the story.  So both did "know Jesus' name" and that "God has a Son."  And we must remember that salvation is always based on the sacrifice of Christ for sin -- His death and resurrection.

We should note also that Muslims do have some knowledge of Who Jesus is.  The Koran tells that He is the Messiah and that He was virgin born (3:40-59; 19:12-38), although it emphatically denies the Trinity and that Jesus is God's Son (4:171, 172; 5:114-120).  I think this denial may be due to a misunderstanding of the biblical teaching, at least partially because of Mohammed’s exposure to the traditional Christianity of his day -- the Mariolatry, and the idea that somehow God "begot" Jesus by sexual union with Mary.

I believe that there are in Islamic nations many Muslims (even practicing ones) who are secret believers in Jesus.  If they understand who He is and recognize that He is God's Son in the Trinitarian sense and that He died for them, they are saved.  We could see the similarity with Messianic Jews and even find an example in Naaman the Syrian in the Old Testament, who was a worshipper of the LORD, even though he still had to take part in pagan rituals (2 Kings 5:17-19).  Who are we to pass judgment on those for whom an open profession would mean death?

Of course, we must remember that Jesus limits the gate to life to a lesser number than those going to destruction.

“Enter in through the narrow gate.  Because the gate is wide and the way is spacious, that leads to destruction and there are many who enter in through it.  How narrow the gate and constricted the way that leads into life and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13, 14).

I realize that I have not begun to deal with the related questions regarding the fate of those who are not saved.  I’ll attempt to do so on a later post.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON GOD’S SUPPLY

Matthew 6:25-34

In a comment on THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, 16, Bob and Judy told of a meeting where this passage was discussed and the question came up, “What if He (God) doesn’t provide those needs?”  To which the answer was given, “Then you aren’t meeting God’s conditions."Bob went on to say that he sensed something was wrong. “Aren’t there instances when God doesn’t provide the 3 basics Jesus mentioned? Certainly.” He then used the infamous Bataan death march as an illustration and raised a number of questions, which boil down to just one: Who’s at fault?  Did Jesus lie or did they fail to seek first His Kingdom and righteousness (cf. Matthew 6:33)?

I’m glad Bob asked for my thoughts which I’m always willing to give.  I should have dealt with this question on that post when I published it.

We don’t need to go back 70 years to see matters occurring which bring Jesus’ promise into question.  We could look at the thousands starving in North Korea or imprisoned in countries where to be a Christian is considered a crime.  In fact, it is often those who are the most committed disciples, who are definitely seeking God’s Kingdom and righteousness, who seem to be suffering the most.

And the response that was mentioned certainly appeared to me to be a glib one.  It sounded too much like the sort of response that Job’s friends would  give, a judgmental pronouncement that the one who fails to receive provision is not keeping his/her end of the bargain with God.

So here are my further thoughts:
·         The promise is not made to everyone without distinction.  It is made to disciples of Jesus (5:1, 2).  The heathen are excluded (6:31).  Only a disciple is seeking God’s Kingdom.
·         The promise has to do with basic needs.  We all have lists of perceived needs that go way beyond what is promised, and frankly most of us (myself included) would be very uncomfortable if we were limited only to food, drink and clothing.
·         We need to be careful not to simply make these promises into a barter system, where we do our part and God is obligated to do His.  All that we receive, even our necessities, are by His grace.
·         We need to beware of passing judgment on the situations of others.  Perhaps our tendency to hold others more accountable than ourselves is the reason Jesus immediately follows with “Don’t judge …” (7:1).
·         Though we’re given the promise that God will supply the basic needs of Jesus’ disciples, He usually does not do so miraculously.  He has delegated that responsibility to us.  As James tells us, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacking in daily food” (James 2:15), we are to supply “his daily bodily needs” (verse 16).
·         Paradoxically there will be times when those needs are not supplied, when disciples are “persecuted for righteousness sake” (5:10), when others deny those basic needs to the followers of Christ.  Seeking the Kingdom may, and often does, lead to suffering, even martyrdom.  Has God failed in these cases?  I’d say definitely not!  He is rather supplying something greater.  “Theirs is the Kingdom of the Heavens.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, 16

WHAT – ME WORRY?
Matthew 6:25-34

Husband to wife:  “Why do you always worry?  None of the bad things you worry about ever happens.”
Wife:  “See – it works!”

“Because of this, I’m telling you, don’t worry about your life – what you’ll eat, or what you’ll drink – or for your body – what you’ll wear.  Isn’t the life more than food and the body more than clothes?” (25)

“Look at the birds in the sky that they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, and your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you worth more than they?  And which of you by worrying is able to add one foot to his life’s path?” (26, 27)

“And why worry about clothes?  Learn from the wildflowers, how they grow.  They don’t labor or spin, but I tell you not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of them.  And if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown in the oven, won’t He clothe you much better, ‘Littlefaiths’?” (28-30)

“So then don’t worry, saying ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we put on?’  For all these things the heathen seek.  For your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But first seek His Kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (31-33)

“So then don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worry of its own.  Every day has enough problems of its own!” (34)

The Greek verb, merimnao is used six times in this passage.  It can be (and has been) translated as “be anxious,” “be concerned,” “have anxiety,” “worry” or something similar.  I chose to translate it “worry” because that seems to be its meaning in the context.  The word itself is not a bad or negative word as we often think of it.

In fact, Jesus is not, as we so often interpret this passage, condemning or forbidding worry or concern.  The word is found in a positive sense elsewhere in the New Testament (although in these instances we usually translate it “concern”):

“The single person – is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he might please the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:32; also see verse 34).

“…the members should be concerned about each other” (1 Corinthians 12:25).
 
“(Timothy) will be genuinely concerned about your condition” (Philippians 2:20).

No, what Jesus is warning about is the improper objects of our worries.

He had just been warning His hearers about the dangers of making wealth and possessions their treasures and failing to seek treasures in heaven.  (See:  THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, 8, Double Vision.)   We could imagine that many, perhaps most of His hearers would dismiss this warning as not being applicable to them.  After all, His disciples – His target audience – had left all to follow Him.  And the crowds who had gathered around were made up of needy people (Matthew 4:24, 25).

There were probably not too many here who were slaves of mammon (24).  Or were there?  The words “because of this,” however, ties this set of warnings to the previous.

We tend to think of mammon as money, riches or great wealth, an abundance of material things.  But if we remember that its basic meaning is that of any material object of trust, then it is possible for even poor folks to be slaves of mammon.

Perhaps most of these folks were too busy simply trying to make a living to worry about treasures.  But they were worried.  They were very probably worried about where their next meal was coming from.  They were worried about what they were going to wear when their clothes became threadbare.  And Jesus tells them not to worry?

Yes!  He is telling them to trust, to trust in the God Who is their Heavenly Father, Who cares for His children.  This is the God Who feeds and clothes His creatures, even though they are only part of His temporal creation.  If God takes care of His temporal creation, then won’t He take care of His eternal creatures – us?

The term that Jesus uses for His doubtful disciples is for some reason never (to my knowledge) translated accurately.  It is not “O ye of little faith,” but one word “Littlefaiths” (Greek:  oligopistoi), which may very well be Jesus’ own word, personally coined especially for His disciples!  It is found first in the Gospels and is always addressed to them (Matthew 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Luke 12:28; also oligopistia – Matthew 17:20).  It seems to be a gentle affectionate rebuke, and puts the finger on the problem.  They didn’t lack faith.  Their faith was just too small!

As is ours!  We pray the prayer, “Give us today our daily bread,” but do we really believe He will provide?  Or perhaps we are expecting more than God has promised to provide.  Do we worry about the provision of our wants, when He has promised to supply our needs?

Jesus warns that failure to trust our Heavenly Father puts us on the same level as the heathen – the unbelievers.  They don’t have a Heavenly Father!  Whether we think of the heathen of Jesus’ day, who strained to appease their gods and “buy” their provision, or the heathen of our day who attempt to make it on their own with no help from any god, there is a danger of buying into their thinking.

There’s also a danger of taking Jesus’ words here as a license for laziness, to see trust as a simple “letting go and letting God.”  But we need to compare other warnings such as Paul’s, “If a person won’t work he shouldn’t eat!” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).  And we need to remember that the birds that God provides for are busy.

The real “worry” for the disciple of Jesus is found in verse 33 – to seek the Father’s kingdom – to enter it by faith and to promote it by our actions.  And we can’t tell if we (or others) are seeking the kingdom simply by looking at our (or their) bank accounts.

A prescription for dealing with worry – write the worry down and ask these questions:
  • Is it covered by Jesus’ promises?  If it is, then it’s God’s problem not mine.  I need to give it to Him.
  • Can I do anything about it?  If so, I should go ahead.
  • What if it comes true?  Is it a threat or an opportunity?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

AMERICAN GRACE

I finally finished reading American Grace, by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell.  It’s a huge study/survey of American religions (550 pages and appendices and notes).  It examines the religious attitudes of Americans of various persuasions in regard to marriage, politics, ethnicity, gender and just about anything else one can think of.  It is full of charts and graphs on these various issues and traces the changes in American religion over recent years.

I am still mulling over the data in this book and know that I will probably find it useful for years to come.  I highly recommend it for anyone who is involved in religious ministry, although I fear that not many will feel that it is worth the time and effort.  It is.  I feel it’s the best book on the sociology of religion since Alan Wolfe’s, The Transformation of American Religion (2003) and goes way beyond Wolfe’s study in that it provides huge amounts of data to reinforce its assertions.

The subtitle of the book is How Religion Divides and Unites Us and this appears to be its basic thesis.  Some of the conclusions were surprising, some even seemed contradictory and others were, to me, deeply troubling.  It is the last chapter (15) and its conclusions that were the most troubling.  It is entitled, “America's Grace:  How a Tolerant Nation Bridges its Religious Divides.”  It states (page 516), “The fact that religion is not nearly as divisive as race, class, or politics is the puzzle this chapter seeks to solve.  How can Americans be both devout and diverse without fracturing along religious lines?”  This is, it appears, the question to which the whole book has been leading.  And of course, it doesn’t take 500+ pages of charts, graphs and analyses for us to recognize that America, the nation with the greatest religious liberty is also the nation with the greatest religious diversity and tolerance.

What is troubling to me, though it seems quite satisfying to the authors, is that, as they tell us, “A majority of Americans believe that members of other faiths can go to heaven, and this is true even in religions that explicitly teach that salvation is reserved for their own adherents.”  The authors credit our being “both religiously diverse and religiously devout” – our ability to be both devoted to our faith and tolerant of the faiths of others, to the fact that, “It is difficult to damn those you know and love” (page 517).  Most of us have friends and even family who are of different religious views.

The statistics they present back up their assertions.  The graph on page 535, entitled, “Americans overwhelmingly believe that people of other religions can go to heaven,” gives the percentages of those of various religions who believe this.  The lowest percentage is (white) Evangelical Protestants with 83%.

Just in case there might be confusion over what “other religions” might mean, the question was reformulated.  After all, a Baptist might think that a Methodist was of an “other religion” (and vice versa), yet would still see him as going to heaven based on faith in Christ.  So it was phrased more specifically as, “Even when those other religions are not Christian.”  Here the percentages were quite a bit lower among nearly all denominations surveyed.  Here again the Evangelical Protestants were the lowest with 54% (page 537).

That still is a high figure.  It means that over half of those Americans who call themselves evangelical believe that Jesus Christ is not the only way to heaven!

However, clergy in evangelical churches hold to a much higher percentage, ranging from 92% to 100 % of leaders in various evangelical denominations and groups who hold to the exclusivity of Jesus (page 539).  The authors refer to this as, “The clergy-laity disconnect.”  They even tell a sad story of the shock among the clergy of one denomination at this finding.  These clergy felt that surely those of their denomination did not hold this view, and were stunned to find they did.  “One wanly said that as teachers of the Word they had failed.”

The authors suggest that it is our social networks that influence our theology.  Our saintly, “Aunt Susan” and “pal Al,” who are of different persuasions “produce a form of cognitive dissonance.”  We do not want to believe they are going to hell!

So what do we say to all these troubling data?  I personally have friends and family whom I love, who do not believe in Christ.  Are they lost?  I can find reams of Scripture that say they are and only by manipulation of texts can I find arguments otherwise.

I want to see my loved ones in heaven, but if Jesus’ claims to exclusivity are true they are lost.  I find no median way.  And if I choose to deny or ignore their lost condition, it is doubtful that I would ever tell them how to be rescued from their lost condition.  Denial is not love.

I am concerned, that perhaps, like the clergyman mentioned above, I have failed as a teacher of the Word.  Perhaps I have not communicated clearly the truths of the gospel and of the Person of Christ.

See:    A QUESTION ANSWERED
            THROWING OUT THE BABY
            WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?