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Tag: Matthew 25:31-46

If You Could Quote Evangelicals One Bible Verse, What Would it Be?

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Last Friday, I did an interview with VICE News at our home. Afterward, I participated in a friendly discussion with two friends: a United Church of Christ pastor and a former Lutheran pastor who currently works as a journalist for the Defiance Crescent-News, at a local restaurant. The whole day was a wonderful experience, albeit I was quite tired and in lots of pain afterward.

The interviewer asked each of us if we had one Bible verse we wanted to share with Evangelicals. Both of my friends replied (and I paraphrase)

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

….

 And he [Jesus] answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. Luke 10:25,27)

My friends focused on the second of the two great commandments (which summarize all of the law of God): loving your neighbor as yourself.

I agree with Jim and Tim. To Evangelicals I say: if you don’t love your neighbors, don’t bother to tell me how much you love God. In fact, if you don’t love your neighbor, you don’t love God. (As an atheist, I admire any sect/church/pastor that values people above dogma.)

My verse (s) came from Matthew 25:31-46 (I wrongly said Matthew 24 in the interview, but my “exposition” was from Matthew 25):

 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

I became quite animated when talking about this passage of Scripture. I fear I did a bit of preaching. 🙂 That said, the two great commandments and Matthew 25 were central to my preaching towards the end of my time in the ministry. I believed then, and still do, that the essence of Christianity is how we treat others, not right beliefs. Evangelicals have largely divorced behavior from belief. Sure, they talk about “sin,” but eternal life in Heaven is conditioned on believing certain theological propositions. The Evangelical gospel is this: BELIEVE THIS AND THOU SHALT LIVE. This belief is the exact opposite of what Jesus allegedly taught in Luke 10 and Matthew 25.

The interview should be available in a few weeks. I will post it when it does.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

2006: It’s Time to Leave the Christian Ghetto and Become “Worldly” for Jesus

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What follows is a post I wrote fourteen years ago. I thought readers might appreciate reading something I wrote back before I became an atheist; back when I was slowly exiting Christianity stage left. 

Enjoy!

My comments concerning HisHolySpace have elicited some interesting comments (both public and private), In almost every case, the writer disagreed with me. In one case, I think the writer, intentionally or not I do not know, questioned my relationship with God:

I do not know much about you, but it is like you are searching for the truth. search sincerely and diligently, you will find Him.

I didn’t know God was lost, and certainly didn’t know that I was the one who lost him. Yes, I am a seeker, as all Christians are to be. I just happen to look in other places than many Evangelicals do. I refuse to divide my world into secular and Christian. I reject all such dualistic views of the world. There is one God, and Jehovah is His Name. That God created one world, and He called it Good. Adam and Eve corrupted that Good creation, and every human been since has walked in their footsteps.

We live a sin-corrupted, sin-darkened world. It has been this way since the beginning. Because of sin, we die. The newspaper lists the casualties of sin every day. All of us are doomed to become a casualty someday. All of us will face the ugly specter of death someday, probably sooner than later.

Since death is an ever-present reality, what are we to do with our lives? As Christians, we are called on to press the claims of the Kingdom of Christ in every facet of human life. No area of life is exempt. We will search the Scriptures in vain for any command to build a separate Christian society that operates as a sub-culture of the prevailing culture. The Scriptures must be read in their Jewish historical context. If we read them with American Evangelical eyes, the result will be a corrupt world view.

As Christians, we are to be “in the world but not of the world.” What does that mean? Well, Christian Ghetto builders contend that Christians are to build a Christian world that exists alongside the secular world. They venture out into that secular world to work, shop, and eat, but the rest of the time they retire to the safe haven of their Christian ghetto. If only they could work for a Christian employer, buy their gas at a Christian owned gas station, eat at Christian owned restaurants, and shop at Christian owned grocery stores, then their world would be perfect.

Some object when I call this escapism, but that is exactly what it is. Christians like this have hunkered down in their spiritual bomb shelters, waiting for the Rapture. While they are waiting for Jesus to come again, they busy themselves playing Christian games, watching Christian TV, playing Christian music, and contacting the Christian underground at places like HisHolySpace.

A person’s eschatology does matter. For Rapturists, this all makes sense. The return of Jesus is imminent. I remember when the book “88 Reasons Jesus will Return in 1988″ came out. The church I was pastoring at the time was quite stirred up about it. People were getting copies of the book and handing it out. I took the opposite stance. I preached a message titled “Why Jesus WON’T come back in 1988″ As the calendar clearly proves, I was right.

Rapturism is pretty much a new-fangled theological position. Historically, the church has NOT believed in Rapturism. Instead, the church has primarily held to amillennial or postmillennial eschatological views. Both views reject escapism, and instead require Christians to actively engage the culture they live in. No imminent check-out for Christians. We are here for the duration. Until Jesus comes again, we have work to do.

Every Christian has the mandate to engage and change the culture they live in. We are to be counter-cultural, not absent-cultural. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are called on to wade into the muck and the filth of the world and make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact with.

Christian Ghetto builders do just the opposite. They build fences to keep the world out. They put Christian pit bulls in the yard to keep those dirty, filthy worldlings out. They elect Pseudo-Christian politicians to do their bidding. They clamor for laws against abortion, homosexuals, and same-sex marriage. God forbid they ever have to come in contact with someone who has had an abortion or who is a homosexual. The front doors of their houses are papered with magazines from Focus on the Family. They hope all peddlers of the secular world will be warded off by the magazines. If that doesn’t work, they will sic the Christian Ghetto Godhead of Dobson, Falwell, and Robertson, on them.

All the while, our culture is dying, sinners are going to hell, and most Christians don’t give a damn. As long as they can maintain their membership in the Christian Ghetto they will live under the delusion that they are serving Jesus. They will forget that Christians are to love the Lord their God with all their being and to love their neighbor (not fellow Church member) as they love themselves. Pretty simple. Love God. Love your Neighbor.

How many non-Christian friends or acquaintances do you have? When is the last time you shared a beer with your fellow workmates? When is the last time you talked to your non-Christian neighbors? When is the last time non-Christians were invited to your house for dinner? How do you treat that dyed-hair, many-times-pierced, cashier at the grocery? And the list goes on and on . . . And I don’t mean inviting them to church. Stop inviting people to church and instead BE THE CHURCH. Go to an AIDS hospice and volunteer to be a helper. Go to the nursing home and love some old people. Seek out a single mother and buy her some formula, diapers, or offer to babysit for her. And the list goes on and on . . .

Buy some secular CDs and try and hear the voice of the culture you live in. Stop listening to escapist Christian music that has you so hopped up about Heaven that you neglect the world you live in. Stop leaving tracts at restaurants. Instead leave a gracious tip and be a nice customer. Call up the local bar and offer to drive any person home that is too drunk to drive. Be a friend to a prisoner. Adopt their family. Love them. And the list goes on and on . . .

Live the Gospel.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Don’t tell people the Gospel, SHOW people the Gospel; then, and only then, will you find a receptive audience. Get out there in the dirty, old world and show them that Jesus is worth loving and that Christianity is worth living.

Stop trying to get them to come to your Christian Ghetto. Go to Them. Jesus Did.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser