Friday, August 2, 2013

Burning Questions: What does the Bible say about bigotry/intolerance?

Main Teaching Point:   Jesus Christ taught He was the truth, the way and the life AND HE was the ONLY way to God.  Any and everyone who would call out to him and believe in him would be saved.

Scripture Passage:  John 14:1-7 

Secondary Scripture:   John 3:16, Romans  1:16, Luke 10:29-37, John 4

We are all conditioned through how we were raised to have some sort of intolerance programmed into us – even if it is to be intolerant of the intolerant.  Despite our best efforts to be different from the generations who came before us, we cannot escape the programming of our DNA.  While I may not have the same biases and prejudices as my parents and grandparents, there are still some that exist in me.  Mine don't seem to fall between racial, gender or ethnic grounds.  But mine had a tendency to be related to religion.

However after carefully considering the example of Jesus, I realize that I have run out of excuses to justify my bigotry.  I like to use the word bigotry because it really is an ugly word.  Intolerance isn't as jarring as bigotry.  You can have a mild intolerance of milk.  You cannot be a minimal bigot.  That word cannot be softened.  That is why I like to use that word when I can when it concerns these issues.

Jesus actually taught against bigotry, intolerance etc.  It is a simple connection of two verses that reveal the heart of God.  John 14:6 said that ONLY Jesus is the way, truth and life.  And what's more, Jesus is the only way to heaven.  Nobody comes to the Father unless they come through Jesus.  So what does this teach us about the inclusiveness of Jesus and what Christianity is supposed to look like?  When you interpret John 14:6 with John 3:16 you realize that while Jesus is the only way to God and to Heaven, ANYONE can access God.  ANYONE and EVERYONE can come to Christ.  He won't turn you away.  More importantly, without Jesus I would be destined for the same place that the people I hold a bias against would go without Jesus.  If Jesus did not come, we are all destined for death and hell.  That is a great unifier.  We are all of us united in our dependance of the mercy, grace and salvation of Jesus Christ.

The selection of the 12 from the rest of the disciples was also significant – and while many had a lot in common (four fishermen, former followers of John the Baptist) the selection of two of the disciples reveals some interesting glimpses into the heart of God as well.  He chose Matthew the tax collector and one time Roman sympathizer.  Most tax collectors had turned against their own people, stealing and robbing their way into wealth and comfort.  Matthew had built his lifestyle off of the sweat and backs of his fellow Jews.  He was considered a sinner by the leadership of society because of what his chosen profession meant.  

Jesus also chose Simon the Zealot.  While the Zealot movement would really his its zenith later after Jesus had risen and ascended, there were still those who wanted The Messiah to come and be a military deliverer.  They wanted to overthrow their Roman oppressors and they wanted the Messiah to lead the way.  The fact that these two men, so diverse and so opposed to the other, could live and serve with only their connection to Jesus in common means that we can absolutely see the value and worth of those who are completely different from us.  The fact that Jesus elevated those two men into his twelve is significant.  Jesus sees past political ideology and also our flawed personal history.

Simply put, the Boldness of the Gospel can be bigger than the intolerance conditioned into me.  Look at the way Jesus treated the woman in Samaria at the well.  And remember the powerfully radical and very controversial parable of the Good Samaritan where He indicted religion and those who practice it as being unloving, non-compassionate and exclusive.  Can you imagine what the contemporary version of the Good Samaritan would be?  Could you imagine what your church's response would be if Jesus taught it this Sunday?

It doesn’t matter what/how/where people live their lives, Jesus is the ONLY access to God.  He is also the only Truth and Life.  And ANYONE can have access.
Jesus Christ transcends political causes, governments, and all earthly turmoil. His kingdom is eternal.  He taught above all of that.  

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