Thursday, April 2, 2009

Coexist can be a dangerous word for Christians.

I'm sure you've all seen one of these bumper stickers. On the surface, the message proposed is both positive and benign. The promotion of respect and tolerance was exercised by Jesus, as recorded in the Book of John (4:7-27), when He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well. During this period of time, Jews held deep disdain for Samaritans, and a Jewish man speaking to a non-Jewish woman was an unheard occurrence.

As Christians, should we be less quick to ridicule or denounce religious views outside our own? A fair enough question. Paul states in his letters to Christians in Corinth, Greece to give none offense, neither Jew, Gentile, or the church of God. His reason is two fold: 1. Being offensive doesn't bring glory to God, and 2. it inhibits the ability to convey the message of salvation....our Great Commission as followers of Christ.

I personally fail in this area on a regular basis, and asking for tolerance (as well as humility) is in my daily prayers. The catalyst for this post is an article I read yesterday on titled Episcopal minister defrocked after becoming a Muslim.

How does this happen? I repeated to myself over and over while reading about an ordained minister who actually thought she could be a Christian and a Muslim at the same time. While she embraces the beauty of Islam, she clings to her faith in Christ. How does this happen? How can people become so confused? Just look around brother. People are confusing the word tolerance with the word acceptance on a regular basis these days.

Yes, Jesus initiated conversation despite traditions with the Samaritan woman at the well, but He did so in order to deliver His message that He was the Living Water. Paul instructs Christians not to be offensive to other's beliefs, so we might deliver the message of Christ to a more receptive audience. The Word clearly states that the only way to the Father is through His Son.

During my 'dark years' of searching for Truth, I studied a number of theologies in detail. I understand that Jesus is mentioned by name in the Ko'ran more times than Mohammad; however, I also understand that Muslims do not recognize Christ as God. He was a prophet of great importance, but not God. That doesn't work for a true follower of Christ. Hinduism and Buddhism both acknowledge the importance of Jesus within the context of their beliefs, but not as the Son of God. The Savior of all men.

Here comes my swing at New Age...everyone can't be right. According to most New Age philosophy (and Oprah), there are many paths to God. Live a good life by helping others, don't worry about religious beliefs not your own, and we will all meet in Heaven someday. But that's not what the Bible says, and the Bible is the foundation of my faith as a Christian.

So, there is a huge difference between coexist with tolerance and coexist with acceptance. If you are a Muslim and I accept your belief in the Ko'ran, I am accepting the teachings of the Ko'ran and will no longer make effort to convey the message of the Bible. By doing so, I am denying the Muslim a chance to know the true path to God through Christ...and thus, I have failed my Savior.

I'll close with a short video from Lee Strobel who does an excellent job conveying the conflict of acceptance but the love in tolerance between Christians and Muslims, the worlds two largest faiths:


Luke said...

I like the quote: Not all paths lead to God, but God can be found walking down all paths.


Laretha said...

Good stuff Tony C!

Z said...

I don't know, from my Episcopalian friends' complaints about how left their denomination's gone, I'd say it's surprising they defrocked an Episcopal pastor for becoming a muslim! (Smile)

OH, man, are there a lot of COEXIST bumper stickers around LA me nuts. Now, if we can only convince the crescent-represented friends to coexist, huh? Just DO NOT KILL US, PLEEEASE?

I heard a Scottish pastor recently say "Prince Charles has become a defender of faith, not defender of THE FAITH" big difference; and an important one to a once-very Christian country. scary, isn't it? I thought that phrase described the situation well.

Beth in NC said...

Great post Tony. I hate those Coexist stickers too.

Angel Bear said...

Great Info, Tony C.

One thing that the Bible says, is that people who are not Christians (believers in Christ and Christ-like) will hear but not understand due to the Holy Spirit (the Comforter Jesus left behind in His place) to help interpret the Bible.

Quote KJV Luke 8:9-10
9And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be?
10And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.

Jesus had already given understanding to the disciples but to those who had not been saved yet would not understand until the Holy Spirit deals with their hearts - so Jesus spake in parables.

If you read the whole parable in Luke 8, it talks about how the seeds of God's Word are sown in different ways; including being snatched up by the devil.

I would think those who believe things outside of what the Bible says, such as Oprah thinking there are different paths to God, they get confused by the world's in depth misleading by the media. People will actually say the Bible was mis-translated BUT you have to know if the source is reputable OR research it for yourself. Learn Hebrew and Greek - but do not just accept some off-the-wall source without seeking God's view on it. How do you do that? Pray ahead of time and then get the answer from His Word. If the media said Jesus was gay would you believe it? If the media said our fore-fathers were gay, would you believe it? There are some idiotic stuff being said out there - just because they can.

Quote KJV John 14:6
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

The Bible was translated at the perfect time by the perfect people for God's perfect master plan. God is always in control.

Christians might be tempted by the devil's pulls (the devil can come as a shining light) but if you are a Child of God, God will bring you back into the fold.

That person who Tony C wrote about that "coexists", might come back into the fold one day. As the Church, we should welcome them back - that's what Jesus would do. We also might want to pray for that person and others alike.

In Christ's Love,

David said...

I have a few thoughts. I don't take the notion of a "one world religion" lightly. Since the days of Joseph and Ishmael there has been a conflict between Muslims and Judeo-Christians. Look at some pictures right after 9/11, you'll see Israel and the USA in flaming banners throughout the Middle East. All the rest is more ignorance, stupidity, witchcraft and wishful thinking then a real religion.

It appears that people want to believe in a philosophy that gives them some certainty about their own beliefs and sometimes their after life. Jesus was the only One that rose from the dead and provided power after His death. That is the central focus of the Gospel; a Risen Savior.

The problem is that the church has not always preached the simple gospel message, and so in the same way that the Jews looked for a tangible god while Moses was on the mountain, and asked for a King, Christianity has had their fill of golden calves.

The witness of the church throughout much of the New Testament age has been, for the most part, dismal.

It is the quite lives of peacful saints that have had so much more impact on eternity then our superstar preachers and evengelists- for which the world will always find fault.

It is isn't about left or right, or Baptist or Pentecostal, but it's about, the truth, about love and the witnness the world sees.

Coexisting is not the goal, lovingly saturating the world, of which we are not a part, with a simple gospel is.

Yeah, I'd like to paste some "Gun Owner - Christian" stickers right over those and the Darwin ones. ;o)

katdish said...

You know, I hate to sound intolerant, but some people just need to be hit up side the head with a Jesus frying pan! In Christian love, of course. Always in love...

Lula! said...

I love that video of Strobel...and I loved this post.

Those COEXIST stickers make me cringe. As does Oprah. Glad you mentioned her...the words "New Age" and "Oprah" go hand in hand. And that makes me sad...for her.

A Young American said...

I thought those obnoxious bumper stickers were only popular in my undisclosed superliberal state! Every time I see one, I've been tempted to engage in dialogue with the driver. Nothing confrontational, just act like I'm legitimately curious. "So, how is the religion that says kill all Jews supposed to coexist with the Jews?" "How is the religion that says Allah is the only god supposed to coexist with the religion that says Jehovah is the only God?"

submandave said...

I have generally considered these stickers to be extremely silly and largely associate them with feel-good types who want to believe they are doing something simply by parotting the latest pithy statement. With two notable exceptions (Islam and Feminism), all faiths/doctrines illustrated generally do coexist with little problem at all.

As for the preeminence of Christianity and the teaching the no man shall come to the Father but through the Son, I generally ascribe to a universalist (small 'u') mindset that, I think, parallels something C. S. Lewis once said. How am I to know the ways in which God (Father and/or Son) make themselves known to others, and why must knowing Jesus be limited only to this life? I know many people from non-Christian traditions who, by their acts, know Jesus far better than many self-identified Christians in my town.

Rosie said...

Good stuff Tony! I also like the quote "Not all paths lead to God, but God can be found down all paths." Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me." Can't get more clear than that! Of course to those who do not believe, it is but foolishness.

Budster said...

Well said bro. Great post!