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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Not By Letter, But By Spirit

As a Christian I am uneasy about claims to exclusivity regarding the validity of my religion and the invalidity of all others.  Perhaps some here will mention that even the devil can quote scripture, but I will begin the discussion of my point of view in this matter quoting from John: And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father (14:13 NIV).  To me this scripture clearly should not be taken on a stupid level—that level being that simply the mention of “Christ” in a prayer guarantees the results I want even if I ask it in the spirit of the antichrist.  Clearly Jesus had to mean by “ask in my name” that one ask in the spirit of Christ.   Even a more restrictive passage must mean fundamentally the same: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6 NIV).  This cannot mean “no one comes to the Father except through me” no matter how they perceive Christ—knowing the vulnerabilities and vagaries of the human mind, Christ even can be seen as a racist.  Our perception of reality must be like Jesus’s perception—based essentially on this: Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV). This week in Saint Petersburg a collection of many faiths gathered at a Christian church to discuss how to apply the disciplines of love practically in Pinellas County.  The group had done their homework.  Facts and figures had been complied regarding graduation rates and reading levels, for example.  Members of the group were actively taking ownership of problems in the community.  From my point of view, they were doing God’s work in the spirit of Christ whether Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist.  Certainly they were following in the spirit of the way if compared to a meeting of a hate group; no matter what banner it unfurled—even a Christian one.

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