Author Archives: Rick Henderson

About Rick Henderson

Happy husband. Proud father. Friend of Jesus Christ and desperate to introduce him to others.

Jesus Said Nice Things, But Did He Really Mean Them?

Jesus may be the most quoted man of all time, edging out Shakespeare and the Beatles.  His words are still hotly contested, fiercely defended and grotesquely twisted (depending of course on who you talk to). Of all the things Jesus said, it’s his words from the cross that are most profound and confounding.  With the nail still wet from his fresh warm blood and his nerves on fire–Jesus defiantly spilled soft words of peace.

Luke 23:32-34  Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

This certainly sounds nice.  But did he really mean it?  The big question about “Father forgive them…” is:

Does this prayer essentially give salvation to those offenders, there in that moment?  Did Jesus’ prayer save the Roman soldiers who were crucifying him?

Truth always corresponds to the evidence and is coherent.  Whatever the answer is, it cannot defy the evidence nor can it be true and also contradict another claim that is true.  So, what are our options?

OPTION 1

Jesus’ prayer saved the Roman soldiers.  The problem with this view is that the Roman soldiers and others would never have to place their faith in Jesus.  Salvation is simply given even if they never express trust in Jesus.  That contradicts many passages in the New Testament.  Just a few of which are:

OPTION 2

Jesus’ prayer did not save the Roman soldiers.  This resolves the problem with the first option.  The Roman soldiers and others would have to repent and express trust in Jesus.  This would be consistent with the verses listed above and all the New Testament accounts of someone being saved.  The problem with this view is that Jesus’ prayer is either ignored or answered with a, “No” by the Father.  Either option would indicate a division in the Trinity.  This opens a can of worms worse than option 1.

OPTION 3

Jesus’ prayer was intended to guarantee not that they would be saved, but that they could be saved.  Jesus was saying to the Father, “Put their sins on my bill.”  If we go back and read Isaiah 53—the entire passage outlines an exchange where Jesus gets the short end of the stick.  He takes all of humanity’s mess and in exchange all of humanity can have peaceful forgiveness.

  •          By his stripes we are healed.
  •          He took up our iniquities.
  •          The punishment that brought us peace was on him.

That exchange was true for the Roman soldiers as well.  In that moment, Jesus not only took the brunt of Roman cruelty—he was also paying the price for the sin they were committing right then.  He felt the pain of the nail and the pain of the guilt for driving the nail.  It was a double whammy.

Wouldn’t this view also create more difficulties?  How do we resolve the tension over Jesus paying for all sin, but not all people go to Heaven?  It should be helpful to know that this tension is affirmed in Scripture:

1 John 2:1-2  My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

 Jesus was the atoning sacrifice for all sins.  Salvation is not granted to every person simply because he paid the price for sin.  Salvation is granted to any person who places their faith in him.

Ephesians 2:8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.

In that agonizing prayer from the cross, Jesus asked the Father to put their sin on his tab, to include it in the payment he was making on the cross.  The butchery committed by the Roman soldiers wasn’t  in a unique category of sin that the cross did not cover.  Jesus’ prayer made it clear that they could be saved, not that they would be saved.  The Roman soldiers,the thieves on the cross, all those in the crowd, as well as you and me are only saved by placing our trust in Jesus Christ.

So yeah.  He did mean it.


World Vision Reversed It’s Decision

Christianity Today is reporting that World Vision has reversed it’s decision to hire Christians in same-sex marriages.  I applaud their courage as they are about to face another backlash.  I fear this one may be far more intense than the first.  I was wrong in my doubts about their commitment to Jesus Christ and his Word as their guiding authority.  I gladly stand corrected.

Below is a statement released by World Vision.

 

Dear Friends,

Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our employment conduct policy. The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.

We are writing to you our trusted partners and Christian leaders who have come to us in the spirit of Matthew 18 to express your concern in love and conviction. You share our desire to come together in the Body of Christ around our mission to serve the poorest of the poor. We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.

In our board’s effort to unite around the church’s shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage.

We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority. We ask that you understand that this was never the board’s intent. We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen to the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead.

While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.

Please know that World Vision continues to serve all people in our ministry around the world. We pray that you will continue to join with us in our mission to be “an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.

Sincerely in Christ,

Richard Stearns, President

Jim Beré, Chairman of the World Vision U.S. Board


WORLD [DI]VISION: why homosexuality is not the issue

This week World Vision announced a new hiring policy.  They have lifted a ban on hiring gay Christians who are in same-sex marriages.  You can read more about the announcement in Christianity Today.

World Vision’s decision is applauded by some and appalling to others.  Preferences aside, whatever this announcement is, it is certainly not neutral.  Any commentary otherwise is naive mythology at best and calculated deception at worst.  I’d like to suggest that before the fundies pull funding or the libs empty their wallets, let’s first consider how we should think about this.

This announcement should outrage both the Christians who affirm homosexuality and the Christians who denounce it.

All of us approach truth with our fists tightly clinched to our haggered bag of things we want to be true, desperately hope are true and notions we’re hell bent on pretending are true regardless of what evidence and authority say otherwise.  This reality is as true for middle-aged white men, with bad suits and obvious comb-overs as it is for tattooed, hipster Christians, who are heavier on cynicism than orthodoxy.

Because we’re human, we likely read the announcement with a heart that was primed to affirm our preferences first.  For those of us who have cast our lot with Christ, we don’t stop there.  Instead of going with our gut.  Instead of going with consensus.  Instead of any other standard–we defer to the words of Jesus.  This commonly means that a paradox plays out in our hearts and minds as we submit our opinions, with glad reluctance, in exchange for truth.  This humbling affair is not lost on the serious reader of the Gospels.

Matthew 10:38-39 38  Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39  Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. 

In short, following him means turning away from all other flashing beacons of enlightenment.  Covered in the dust of our rabbi, we press on in his wake.  We stand under his Word as we consider all things convenient and controversial.  We follow him even when and especially when doing so means denying ourselves.  If we are Christians who want homosexuality to be wrong–we submit that preference to him.  We choose his way over our own.  If we are Christians who want homosexuality to be right–we submit that preference to him.  We choose his way over our own.  As Christians, we affirm that his way is revealed in his Word, the Bible.

So what does this have to do with World Vision?

By their own admission, this  new stance is driven by the current events within American Christianity.  It isn’t that World Vision’s understanding of Scripture has changed, but that the moral landscape within churches and denominations is changing.

“Same-sex marriage has only been a huge issue in the church in the last decade or so. There used to be much more unity among churches on this issue, and that’s changed.”-Richard Stearns, President of World Vision

“World Vision is committed to our Christian identity. We are absolutely resolute about every employee being followers of Jesus Christ. We are not wavering on that.”  -Richard Stearns, President of World Vision

Clearly they want to maintain their Christian identity (following Jesus) and maintain the broadest unity possible.  What are Jesus followers supposed to do when maintaining unity with others requires pretending that Jesus’ words are not clear on a controversial matter?  If World Vision’s leadership legitimately believes that scripture is not clear, this is an issue of hermeneutics.  If they believe it is clear but pretend it’s not, this becomes an issue of integrity and authority.  It would seem that World Vision’s decision falls in the latter category.

Regardless of your preferences, if you are Christian who wants to trust and follow Jesus above all else, why would you entrust an organization with your dollars who will abandon Jesus for another authority when facing adversity and difficult decisions? 

I disagree with and am disappointed by World Vision.  Not because they risked standing for convictions, but because they risked conviction by daring not to stand.

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,618 other followers

%d bloggers like this: