Bludgeon Thy Neighbor

Pastor John Hewett attended the Carolina Panthers-Minnesota Vikings football game in Charlotte last Sunday evening. Just outside the gates, two stern-faced men stood holding up huge signs.


Noticing the grimace on John’s face, one of the men said to him, “Jesus can save you.”

John said, “He already has.”

The fellow said, “You sure don’t act like it.”

Fascinating the way some Christians find one single aspect of the Christian faith and turn it into the end-all of salvation and righteousness and go to seed on it.

Thereafter, it becomes the theme of their sermons and the thrust of their conversations. If they’re Facebook friends with you, that’s all you ever read from them.

For some, it’s the KJV Bible. If you’re using anything else, you are a compromised liberal and naive to boot. Either you have been taken in by the con men in the faith or you are a scam artist yourself.

For some it’s Calvinism. Unless you cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ as they do–or Brother John himself did–you’re shallow, don’t know your Bible, and a blind leader of the blind.

I once had a deacon who had come to Christ at the age of 43 after a life of–well, let’s just say, a life of sin. His conversion was dramatic and total. He went from blind to perfect vision overnight and became a zealot for the Lord. (Bible students will think of Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9, who did something similar.)

The deacon looked around the church and saw complacent, dozing members and decided they had probably never been saved. The aspect of salvation they had missed out on, he decided, was repentance. They had never truly repented of their sin, otherwise they would be changed, transformed, made new, and on fire for the Lord.

Thereafter, repentance became his theme.

When I first met him, the deacon was serving as chairman of the pastor search committee for his church and I was their prime candidate. As the committee and I pulled up chairs and began to get to know each other, his first question to me was, “What do you think of repentance?”

As it turned out, I’d been doing some serious Bible study on that subject myself and had convictions of its importance. I said, “Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.’ Luke 13:3,5.”

He liked me from the start.

In time, as the Lord–and the sweet-natured wife of the deacon and his young pastor–worked with him, he mellowed a tad. He never lost his conviction about repentance–no one should; it’s important–but he achieved more balance in his faith and doctrine.

We used to have a neighbor across the street who had decided that “tongues-speaking” was as important to believers as salvation. In time, we found ourselves running from her, just to avoid another of those frustrating confrontations. She made you feel you were a nothing-Christian and probably harboring some secret sin in your life if you did not want what she had found.

It didn’t help matters that she was a member of my church.

Name any doctrine of the Christian faith–I mean, any!–and someone somewhere is obsessing over it, convinced that this one aspect of God’s revelation holds the key to everything else.

The sovereignty of God. (“He’s Lord over all and we are nothing.”)

The grace of Jesus. (“He will always forgive, no matter what we do.”)

Studying the Word. (“You can never get too much Scripture inside you.”)

Memorizing the Word. (“After all, thy word have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against thee.”)

Evangelism. (“You’re either a missionary or a mission field.” “If you’re not telling it, you don’t have it.”)

Ministry. (“After all, when you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto Jesus.”)

The Church. (“He did not give His commission to any parachurch organization, but to the church.”)

It’s not that these things are not true. It’s just that this is not all the Lord had to say on the subject.

It’s about balance in your Christian life and equilibrium in your doctrine. Warren Wiersbe says, “I sometimes think we need one more Beatitude: ‘Blessed are the balanced.'”

Take those fellows outside the Charlotte stadium Sunday night who insist no one is saved unless he has “made Jesus Lord of his life.”

That little argument has gone on for quite some time, whether when a person comes to Jesus for salvation, he must accept Him as both Savior and Lord. Not just books, but entire libraries, have been written taking one side or the other.

What irks me about the controversy is how both sides want to box God in, to tell Him what He can and cannot do. “God won’t save you unless you do this.” “God will always save you if you do this.”

My own position on this and half the theological controversies I know about is to quote Psalm 115:3. “But our God is in the Heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”

Some of our readers are old enough to remember when a well-known evangelist ignited a firestorm of reaction by announcing at a huge political rally in Texas–attended by a cross-section of Christian ministers–“God Almighty does not hear the prayer of Jews.”

His point was that prayer must always be offered in Jesus’ name or it’s not prayer.

Sometime later I asked a leading denominational statesman, an outstanding mega-church pastor who was an intimate friend of that evangelist, “Why would he say such a thing?” He shook his head and said, “I don’t know what we’re going to do about him.”

The answer, of course, to that evangelist’s statement is the Lord’s Prayer. Anyone see Jesus’ name in that? I don’t.

I’m strong on praying in Jesus’ name, let me emphasize. But anyone who spends a little time in the New Testament–I’m talking about after the gospels–will see that this was never intended to be an acid test of anyone’s prayers. Plenty of prayers in the Bible were not offered “in the name of Jesus.”

The Lord knows the heart. He knows which prayers are offered in Jesus’ name in the way He intended. He knows which prayers are valid and which are just so much talk.

I’m not the judge.

But neither are you.

By the way, next time any of our readers decide to stand outside a football stadium holding up huge signs declaring your pet theological position on anything, could I offer one suggestion?

Smile. Act like you yourself are a Christian. Speak kindly to people.

You might win more converts with your soft spirit than with your shouting sign.

4 thoughts on “Bludgeon Thy Neighbor

  1. My daughter’s pastor, Rob Bell, who many fundamentalists can’t stand, has a Nooma called: “Bullhorn Man”, which talks about some of these things. I also heard John Piper talk about how you can’t scare someone out of hell. If “making much of Jesus” doesn’t convince them, hellfire and brimstone won’t either.

  2. Some thirty years ago one of the most overt sinners that I knew came to Christ. Instantly he was radically transformed. He soon became convinced that any picture of Jesus was a violation of the second commandment against making a graven image.

    During a testimony time at a gospel singing in another church he stood and assured the congregation that God would never bless their church because they had a picture of Jesus hanging on the wall.

    Today, he is one of the most devoted and effective members of his church. He woke up to the truth that his stance was not Christlike.

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