Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Purpose Driven Fourth of July?

While many of us were burning burgers and blowing up things in the yard, Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, had different Independence Day plans. He spoke to a crowd of nearly 8,000 Muslims who were gathered in Washington DC, for the Islamic Society of North America’s annual convention.

When I first saw the headline, I thought—what an opportunity! Can you imagine having the opportunity to clearly state the differences between Allah and YHWH at an Islamic national convention? Or being able to clearly state that Isa is not simply a prophet—he is God in the flesh who dwelt among men, died an atoning death on the cross, and lives today to clothe us in His righteousness and make us acceptable to God. What an opportunity to tell the Islamic world that reconciliation is possible—but only through the blood of Jesus Christ.

But that opportunity was not taken. Instead, the “gospel” that was proclaimed was a social gospel of attempting to unite around “interfaith projects”. In response to the criticism he has received, Warren lashed out on his blog, saying that people who criticize him “don’t really understand how much Jesus loves lost people.” That might be true, but what is undeniably true is that he did not take the opportunity he was given to tell nearly 8,000 Muslims how much Jesus loves them.

He also said that “talk is very cheap.” I agree. Talk that consistently glosses over the exclusivity of the Gospel and attempts to reconcile people around social programs is cheap—as a matter of fact, it’s worthless. It is the kind of worthless language that according to Matthew 12:36-37, we will all be held accountable for.

So, how should have Warren used his opportunity? The same way that Paul used his opportunity to speak to the Epicureans and Stoics in Acts 17. He was clearly aware of their culture. They had many great things, sociologically speaking, to bring to the table. Politically speaking, a union between the philosophers and Christians could have accomplished much. But Paul wasn’t interested in interfaith projects or attempting to forge an anthropocentric reconciliation. He wasn’t attempting to build a coalition. That’s why he told the people what he did in verses 30-31: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

Make no mistake about it, Paul spoke into their culture when he quoted their poets and used their idols as an illustration. But he didn’t leave the conversation there. He didn’t “build bridges of love… so that Jesus can walk across.” Jesus walks anywhere He wants—and He does it just fine without us, but He has given us an awesome privilege and responsibility to clearly present the Gospel. He has designed it in His plan that we are to speak the truth in love—not just float away in some man-centered concept of John Lennon love. We are to speak THE TRUTH in love. And the truth is that “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.” Judgment is coming. If Rick Warren or any other person speaks of reconciliation apart from the person and work of Christ, he is allowing people to continue in their ignorance. And their ignorance will be no excuse in the Day of Judgment that God has fixed. That certainly doesn’t sound like much of a bridge of love to me.

Acts 17:22-34


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