Soul Freedom and Reaching Out in Jesus’ Name

The following was written by an on-line buddy, Pastor Jim Abernathy of the Westwood Baptist Church in Springfield, VA.  I always find his material instructive to me spiritually and he never fails to challenge my thinking and provide fresh perspective on issues which he addresses.  anyway, here is what Pastor Abernathy wrote. RMF

Dr. Jim Abernathy

Dr. Jim Abernathy

Comments on Living for Jesus

By Pastor Jim Abernathy

I have read with interest this week the story of Rob Morris, pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown, Connecticut. Rev. Morris has apologized publicly for his participation in the community prayer service in the aftermath of the horrific school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in mid-December. The church Rev. King serves is a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. The denomination prohibits participation on the part of its clergy in what they call “joint worship services” where other faith perspectives might be represented and shared.
I understand and affirm the privilege of soul freedom that allows for different perspectives and as such, though I don’t agree with the MSLC’s stance on this matter, recognize their right to the their beliefs and practices. We celebrate such freedoms as a nation and indeed, as Baptists, we have been known for fierce independence in the context of religious conformity. The issue for me is not how other Christians or denominations view their role in the broad context of modern spirituality for I am not called to be like other Christians. Unfortunately too much time and energy are spent defending our particular persuasions when a hurting world cries out for comfort in the midst of unspeakable tragedy.
Reading the gospels, one gets the impression that the greatest concern of Jesus was not for the protection of religious orthodoxy or for sustaining the status quo. His was a message of radical transformation that began in the heart and found its greatest expression in acts of love. His association with people wasn’t dependent on their world or religious viewpoint. In the brokenness of disease, bigotry, grief, and social exile, he exemplified a willingness to look beyond the surface to see the need of the heart. He was criticized by the religious establishment for associating with these outcasts, but such censure did not dissuade him from loving…even his enemies.
Dr. John Jonsson was South African by birth, a Christian by faith,and professor of missiology at Southern Seminary when I was a student there in the early 80’s. In speaking to the diversity of views apparent between people of different faiths, he taught his students to approach these differences with respect. “You will not have a platform for sharing the love of Christ, if you disrespect the faith of another person,” he said.
From my perspective, to pray alongside a person whose faith is different than my own, threatens neither me nor my faith. The words, name, and comfort of Christ need to be heard. To reach out to hurting people in the name of Christ, regardless of their faith perspective, is not something I or any Christian should ever feel the need to apologize for.
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About ronfurg

Former naval officer, federal investigator, forensic scientist, senior executive service member and pastor. In retirement serves as volunteer and life group leader at New Life Christian Church (www.newlife4me.com). Devoted to beautiful wife, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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