Strong and Benevolent

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S (Scripture): Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, replied, “Rulers of the people and elders, 4:9 if we are being examined today for a good deed done to a sick man – by what means this man was healed – 4:10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy. 4:11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone. 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.”

O (Observation): The man healed by Peter and John goes back to Acts 3:6. Peter and John are basically on trial for committing this act, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, they are declaring that the man was healed in Jesus’ name…the one they rejected.

The narrow part here is that they declare that in Jesus’ name – and in Jesus’ name alone – can we be saved.

A (Application): I’m awed and a little confounded today.

I’m awed by the way in which the a Spirit works in and through these disciples. I’m confounded in this one thing: declaring that through Jesus alone comes salvation.

That might seem weird, since I’m a pastor. I totally believe that salvation comes only through Christ. But here is where the tough part is for me: people can use this verse in such a way as to determine who “gets into heaven and who doesn’t.” How we react is key.

Brian McLaren puts this brilliantly. He says that we’ve historically had 2 ways of being Christian: Strong & Hostile or Weak & Inclusive. Strong & Hostile means being strong in belief and hostile to those who do not carry the same exact beliefs. Weak & Inclusive means that one softens one’s belief system for the sake of being inclusive to those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

But Brian McLaren, a leading voice in emergent Christianity, declares a 3rd, middle way: Strong & Benevolent. This third way shows us that we can be both Strong in our belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior AND loving and benevolent towards our neighbors. Strong & Benevolent does not compromise on its Christian thought but is rooted in compassion and respect for all humanity.

Simply put: Love God (Strong), Love Neighbor (Benevolent). With this viewpoint in mind, I see Acts 4:12 above as the strongpoint, but with an eye toward being welcoming to those who don’t agree with me…that I can invite others to believe what I do in a caring and yet uncompromising way.

How about you? Where are you in these viewpoints? Do one of these viewpoints help you to understand where you are? How do you treat those with different viewpoints of Christianity or the necessity of Jesus? How have you been treated?

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to see that you are our stronghold and that in you we have life and abundance. Help us to be strong in our belief in you as Lord and Savior, while being benevolent to our neighbors. Amen.

[For more on Brian McLaren’s “third way”, see his book, “Why Did Jesus, Moses, The Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?” This link is for the Kindle edition, currently $8.89.]

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