Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dealing With People Who Are Different Than Us

Some of the easiest things to say as a Christian are some of the hardest things to do. This is never so true as when it comes to dealing with people who are different than us. I am talking about people who hold to different belief systems than we do. When we think of our response to such people, we find ourselves thinking in two different directions. We will find that, generally, we can break the world down into two different major people groups ... the lost and the saved. Our response to each group has certain similarities and also certain differences.

If we determine that the person we are dealing with is lost, the Bible gives us some guidelines in dealing with them. First, we are to love them. Here is that part that is easy to say and hard to do. Yes, we owe them our love. We also owe it to them to give them the gospel message, the good news of the forgiveness of sins and of new life through saving faith in Jesus Christ the Lord. We owe it to them to respect them. Even lost, they are bearers of the image of God that is present within every human being. And since we don't know whom God will choose to be merciful to, every lost person we meet may one day be a saved person ... a brother or sister in Jesus Christ. We owe it to them to treat them like a person who will one day be a partaker of the Holy Spirit with us. We owe them love, respect, and the gospel, until the day comes when we are led of the Spirit to shake the dust off our shoes and move on. Remember, some plant, others water, but God gives the increase. It is not every one of us who get to see a person come to conversion. Some are planters, some are waterers, and yet others see the increase. We need to learn to treat lost people with love, respect, honesty, integrity, mercy, justice, good works, and all such good as comes from God. We are the Ambassadors of Christ to the world. They should see Him in us. We owe them that.

These are the same things that we owe to other Christians who differ from us. This is easy to say, but it is extremely hard to do. But we must learn this lesson. If we determine that someone has a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ then we must be about everything we can do to show that person that we love them. One writer, I cannot remember who right now, said that the Holy Spirit within us calls out to the Holy Spirit in them, knitting us together in the bonds of God's love for Himself. That is why it is such a sin to refuse to attend a local congregation. Because if we say we love Jesus then we automatically must love his people too. And you want to fellowship closely with the one you love.

But even more is that the quality of love that we have one for another is of such a quality that even lost people see it and know that we are followers of Jesus by how we (Christians) love one another. It is a superior kind of love that can only be from the source of the Presence of God living within us.

We can find all kinds of reasons NOT to relate to each other with this kind of love, but honestly, we are only rationalizing our sin. Our flesh loves to be offended, loves to get the dirt, and loves the fight. But that is not the way of the kingdom of God. Love, respect, civility, mercy, justice, good works ... these are the things we owe each other as Christians. We are Christ's brothers and sisters ... kings and priests ... members of His own Body. We have the illumination of the Holy Spirit inside us. We hear God's voice. We owe it to each other as Christians to let our fellow brothers and sisters see Him in us.

It is easy to say. It is hard to do. There is a quote from John Calvin that says "It is easy to preach 10 sermons. It is hard to live one." I find that to be very true.

In theology, in the Church, there are sometimes great differences between Christians. There are differences between various denominations. There are differences between systems of theology. There are differences on how to run the Church. Goodness ... there are differences on almost every conceivable topic. Some of these differences are minor. Others are of major importance as to defining who we are as Christians. They ought to be debated ... zealously, vigorously, passionately .. but always as Christian debating Christian. We should expect it from each other. We should demand it from each other. We should also expect and demand it from ourselves too. I confess that in my dealings with others, I am less than the perfect role model for this post. But I take heart that I am a jar of clay and the Master Potter is not yet done with me. Even as I grow older, I know there is much yet for me to learn. I suspect I am not alone in this, but isn't repentance also part of the sanctified Christian life?

Christ prayed that we would be unified as Christians. Even though the Church seems hopelessly divided, if we are in Christ, there is much more that united us than separates us. We need to stop doing as much damage as possible to other Christians and learn to love each other as Christ commanded us. Anything less is simply unchristian.

5 Comments:

Anonymous James said...

Amen! Thank you John, and thank you also for the wonderful sermon you shared with me. Very powerful and thought provoking.

3:00 PM  
Blogger john said...

James,

Thanks for your patience in receiving that sermon. I am sorry for being so technologically challenged. If I didn't have smart people around me I'd be in real trouble. I am happy also if the blog is a blessing to you.

6:09 PM  
Blogger mark said...

Good words John, i must say AMEN.And if i am honest, i must say OH ME.
As to Jesus prayer, it is my belief from the study of scripture that His prayer WAS answered. I believe scripture teaches that we ARE united/one.....we just don't act like it much of the time.

5:05 PM  
Blogger IeuanSant@aol.com said...

Read this blog on Christian behaviour in the rooms you visit.

http://ieuan-sant.blogspot.com/

2:34 PM  
Blogger IeuanSant@aol.com said...

You may wish to recommend this article to your readers on Covenantal Common Grace:

http://covenantalcalvinist.blogspot.com/

regards

Ieaun sant

12:41 AM  

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