“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as you heavenly Father is perfect.”
– Matthew 5: 43-48 (NIV).
So, “Who is your enemy?”
Oxford Dictionaries defines “enemy” as: a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something; a hostile nation or its armed forces or citizens, especially in time of war. Now these seem to be easy to define. We all have people that we have had conflict with that could be considered an enemy. Maybe something was said or done that was not appreciated or proper or it could be from a long standing feud for which the reasons have long been forgotten. Maybe it stems from situations like divorce or criminal conduct. It’s easy to identify people who claim to be atheist or members of a faith that seek to cause harm to members of other faiths. During a time of war, it is generally easy to recognize the enemy. But are these our only enemies?
Oxford Dictionaries also gives a third definition of enemy, it is: a thing that harms or weakens something else. Termites who are an enemy of your home would be an example of this type of enemy. But what if that enemy was much closer and as a matter of fact what if it was someone with which you had a relationship or someone with which you attend worship? We tend to flinch at the thought of this. Our minds immediately tell us that this isn’t possible. But what if it was not only possible but likely?
Barna recently released “How We Got Here: Spiritual and Political Profiles of America.” It has some fascinating information in it. I would like to focus on one aspect of it.
Do you think Christ sinned during His time on earth? I know, you think I have gone off the rails. But this is a question Barna asked and the results are astounding and horrifying. There are five groups that make up this survey: Evangelical Christians, Non-evangelical Born Again Christians, Notional Christians, Adherents of Non-Christian Faiths and Religious Skeptics.
Evangelical Christians were not asked if they identified as “evangelical.” There were asked about nine different criteria and because they agreed with all of them were classified as evangelical. The nine are: They have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today; that their faith is very important in their life today; believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior; strongly believe they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; firmly believe that Satan exists; strongly believe that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; strongly agree that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; strongly assert that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches; and describe God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity that created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical was not based on church attendance or denomination.
Evangelicals make up 6% of the US population. That number surprised me as to how low it was. When asked the question about did Jesus sin on earth, 0% answered yes. Makes sense.
Non-evangelical Born Again Christians agree with Evangelicals that they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their Savior. But they do not accept the remaining seven conditions that the Evangelicals accept. If you need, go back and look at what they don’t accept.
Non-evangelical Born Again Christians make up 23% of the US population. Almost four times more of the population than the Evangelicals. Of them, 46% believe that Jesus sinned during His time on earth. That is staggering and horrifying.
Notional Christians consider themselves to be Christian but have not made a personal commitment to Jesus that is still important in their life today nor do they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their Savior. But they call themselves “Christians.” They make up 42% of the US population. Of them, 68% believe that Jesus sinned while He was on earth.
Adherents of Non-Christian faiths are those that claim to be a part of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. This group makes up 6% of the US population. Of them 46% believe that Jesus sinned during His time on earth. That is the same amount as Non-evangelical Born Again Christians and less than Notional Christians. Does this make your head start to hurt? It gets weirder.
Skeptics are those that claim to be atheist or agnostic or have no faith related ties or interest. They make up 23% of the US population and of them, 69% believe that Jesus sinned while He was on earth. Almost the same percentage as Notional Christians. What?????
So 71% of the US population claim to be some form of Christian. But only 44% of Christians believe that Jesus lived a sinless life on earth. This is almost impossible to believe. If you think that Jesus committed a sin on earth, then how did He pay the price for your sin? If He did sin, what sense does that make in following Him?
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV).
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.”
– Hebrews 4:15 (NIV).
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
– 1 Peter 1:18-19 (NIV).
“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
– 1 Peter 2:22 (NIV).
The Old Testament even spoke to his being sinless:
“He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.”
– Isaiah 53:9 (NIV).
Jesus committed no sin on earth. He has never committed a sin, nor will He ever commit a sin. To believe that He did commit a sin makes that person an enemy of the gospel. See the third definition by which an enemy is defined. Believing that Christ sinned harms and weakens the gospel. It makes the Cross pointless.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
– James 4:4 (NIV).
“For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”
– Philippians 3:18-19 (NIV).
Christ commands us to love our enemies. This is something that I struggle with because it is so easy to hate those that hate us. But that is not acceptable for a follower of Christ. We don’t even want to consider that a family member, someone we worship with or someone that claims to be Christian could be an enemy. An enemy of Christ and the gospel is an enemy of ours. We are commanded to love them.
I must admit that this has been a shock to me. I didn’t consider that people who claimed to be Christian could think that Jesus committed a sin. I don’t know how you can believe that and claim Him as Savoir. It just doesn’t make sense. Maybe it is a sign that the Gospel has been watered down so much and made so palatable to our desires that “Christians” would think Jesus to be sinful.
Unfortunately, there is other disturbing information in this survey. It all points to a lack of belief in the gospel and God’s Word. So it would beg the question, as followers of Christ are we in the 6% of Evangelicals?
So do you consider yourself to be “Evangelical?” If not, what don’t you agree with of the nine characteristics used to define an evangelical? If there is something that you don’t agree with out of the nine, read your Bible and see what God has to say or at least talk to someone. For those of us that agree with all nine, are we living our lives that reflect those beliefs? If not, we need to seek conviction and correction.
I don’t know if there is a “linch pin” in the gospel but if you believe that Christ committed a sin, how does the gospel stand? Why did Jesus go to the Cross? If He was sinful it would mean our sins were not atoned for. That would make the Cross pointless and give the Adversary his greatest victory. It is hard to write these words because the Cross is our only hope.
Jesus was, is and will always be sinless. For that there is no argument. If you believe that He did you might as well base your salvation and eternity on Mickey Mouse. If you believe that He sinned, you are an enemy of the gospel. I urge you today to surrender that false belief and choose to believe the truth.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies. It is hard to believe that we might share a pew with someone who is an enemy of the gospel. As followers of Christ, the enemies of the gospel are our enemies. We are called to love them. This has been hard to come to terms with but the numbers bear it out. We live in a time when over half of the people who claim to be Christian believe that Jesus sinned. Is it any wonder the world looks like it does? Do we understand why the road is narrow?
ReadActMinisterPray and run to the Cross!