18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6, NIV
“Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother,” Governor Robert Bentley following the official inauguration ceremony
I’d like to take just a moment to have a word with the Anti-Defamation League, The Birmingham Islamic Society, and various other people and groups who are “shocked” or worry that they may not “receive equal treatment during his (Gov. Bentley’s) tenure as governor.”
Really? These are things that you fear? Seriously? Give me a break! Governor Bentley is a Christian. He has a brother of the biological sort who is a preacher so I can only assume that he grew up with parents who took him to church and taught him Christian morals and values. They probably also taught him that above anything else in this world, that his relationship with Christ is most important. He probably also learned the two passages of scripture that I’ve quoted above.
The first is universally referred to as The Great Commission in which Jesus instructed his disciples to spread the word of His gospel to all the world. In the second reference, Jesus is speaking to those same disciples, his friends, at what we know to be The Last Supper. He is answering a question from Thomas, famously branded a doubter, regarding how the disciples would be able to find their way to Jesus when he left them. Jesus referred to Himself as the way, the truth, and the life, not one of many ways. Whether anyone outside the Christian faith chooses to believe that or not is up to them. Those of us who do believe it, well, it didn’t originate with us. We didn’t say it, Jesus did, so you’ll have to take that up with Him.
Rather than pen a deeply theological missive to those who choose not to adhere to Christianity, mostly because my severely limited education prohibits it, let me just tell you what I, a simpleton who was raised in a Christian home with a pastor for a father, think these passages mean and how I think Christians are to live them out on a daily basis. The way that I believe the vast, vast majority of Christians, including Gov. Bentley, do.
I believe that it is the privilege and responsibility of the Christian to share the truth of scripture with everyone that they can in this life. Christians should be sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in doing so, so as not to offend, frighten, or do a disservice to either the subject of their proselytizing or to God. This isn’t always the case. I understand that. But I believe that most Christians are sensitive to the manner and attitude with which they share the Gospel. I would guess that Gov. Bentley, as a deacon and Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, has done this numerous times, likely in a wholly appropriate way with few finding him offensive.
I also would assume that the Governor, like me, believes that the Bible is more than just a book of tales and yarns meant to teach a lesson much the same as one of Aesop’s fables would. I believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God. A love-letter to all of humanity meant to guide a fallen creation back to Himself through His Son, Jesus. If I am to be an adherent to the Christian faith then it would behoove me to believe and follow the principles and commands set forth in scripture to the best of my ability. Among those being the way that Jesus dealt with people. He did so with compassion and love, often befriending those who were thought to be unclean or evil or of an inferior race or other people group. The beautiful story of the woman at the well in the book of John, chapter 4 springs to mind. The New Testament is full of similar examples.
I said all that to say this: there are only two plausible things I can think of that Gov. Bentley’s detractors on this (non) issue are being driven by. The first is a lack of understanding of scripture and the manner in which Christians are to be about the work of God here on earth. The second is a desire of the allegedly offended to grab a headline or two or a hundred by attempting to make political hay with the Governor’s comments. If I were a betting man, smart money would be on the latter explanation.
Christians in leadership positions are not to check their beliefs and values at the door. They are not to bow at the altar of “you can’t legislate morality” the way so many politicians mistakenly do. After all, someone’s morality, or lack thereof, is being legislated with every law that is passed in this nation. Christians are to use their station in life, whatever that station may be, to bring glory to the God of the universe. The fact is that those who are not and do not desire to be followers of Christ are not brothers and sisters in the Christian sense of Gov. Bentley, Billy Graham, Thad Hankins or anyone else who is a Christian any more than a member of the Boy Scouts of America is a brother to someone who is a member of their local Masonic lodge. That doesn’t mean you and I can’t be the best of friends or that I will treat you unfairly. I have some dear friends whom I love who are not my brothers and sisters in Christ. I wish they were. Perhaps one day they will. I hope so. But, short of them joining Al Qaeda, I will continue to count them as friends regardless of whether they choose to become a Christian or not.
It’s a matter of semantics, really. If you are an Orhtodox Jew, you aren’t a Christian. If you are a practicing Muslim, you aren’t a Christian. If you are a Wiccan, you aren’t a Christian. If you are an atheist, you aren’t a Christian. If you believe Jesus was born of a virgin, was crucified on a cross, rose again three days later, and you invite Him to be the Lord of your life then you are a Christian. Outside of that, you aren’t, thus precluding you from being a spiritual brother or sister to anyone who is. How is that offensive or frightening? Be honest. My three sisters are my sisters because they were born of the same two parents as I was. My spiritual brothers and sisters are spiritual brothers and sisters because they made a decision to be adopted by the same Heavenly Father that I did. It’s that simple.
If our new Governor is a devout, devoted Christian who is earnestly seeking to relate to people in a manner of which Jesus would approve, then any fears anyone has about not being treated fairly by this new administration are completely unfounded and for them to insinuate otherwise is shameful. To say that one can’t govern fairly if they practice a certain faith is in itself unfair. Context clues and recent history lead me to believe that there is no real fear of this and that this whole affair is nothing but the most recent case of political posturing by those who desire the limelight or have an ax to grind with a particular belief system.
If I’m proven wrong then I’ll step up and admit it and take whatever lumps I have coming. If, after a reasonable amount of time (more than a day), those who are “afraid” Gov. Bentley won’t represent them fairly as citizens of this great state are proven wrong they should be willing to do the same. I won’t hold my breath because by then they’ll likely have forgotten the horrible, detestable, evil words spoken by this governor and will be in search of something new to be offended by. Perhaps a child bringing a Bible to school with him in his backpack or someone with her head bowed, silently thanking God for and asking Him to bless the meal she is about to eat. We Christians are a mean bunch, after all. If you don’t leave us alone we’ll start responding in large numbers to places devastated by natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and even terrorist attacks. Don’t believe it? Try us. We’re bad.