Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
Nonbelievers often criticize religion as a cause of division among people. It is true that some people treat their religion as a badge of group membership and an excuse to hate and attack others outside the group. Carried to an extreme, this results in religiously motivated terrorism. The claim is that all religion is bad because it divides people.
Of course, many who claim to be Christians behave in ways that seem to support this criticism. There are fanatics in Christianity as well as in many other belief systems. The human “tribal mentality” which we all have tempts us to divide people into the special group to which we ourselves belong and the inferior group occupied by everyone else. Christianity is one of many rationales used to do this, but such behavior is not justified by anything actually found in the Bible.
This is not a statement that all beliefs or “spiritual doctrines” are equal. “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me...And I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him...”Clearly there is a division between the world, and the “Spirit of truth.” Worldly beliefs do not bring about salvation, truth, or life. Jesus does. Thus, there is a difference between Christians and others.
However, this difference leaves no place for human pride. Salvation is not something we do that makes us special. Salvation comes from Christ and is offered freely to all people. “In him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world” (John 1: 3,4,9). So, being a Christian is not something we achieved and not a reason to feel superior to others.
The New Testament explains how Christians are supposed to treat others. There is a presumption that in conflict, it is the Christians who will be attacked: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves...” (Matthew 10:16). However, this is no justification for Christians to attack or hate people. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...For if you love [only] those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax gatherers do the same?” (Matthew 5:44,46). Jesus' teachings in the New Testament show that Christians are to love others, pray for them, and forgive them. When so-called Christians hate others, attack them, and try to destroy them, they are not following the teachings of Jesus. This is a reflection on them, but not on Jesus or Christianity as a whole.
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