In this world there is a tendency to talk about things in terms of two extremes. We talk in terms of black and white, rich and poor, the able and the disabled, the haves and the have nots. Now of course, we all know that there are normally all sorts of shades in between. Nevertheless talking about things in terms of two extremes can be a very helpful way in clarifying issues.
Now one of the masters of talking in terms of black and white was Jesus, because Jesus talked in terms of those who had faith and those who hadn’t, those who believed and those who didn’t, and those who were saved and those who were lost. But whereas we might understand, or even hope for shades in between, with Jesus there was no such option. And we have an example of what I am saying in Luke’s Gospel.
The situation was that a crowd of disciples and others had assembled. Jesus had healed the sick of their diseases, and demons had been cast out. And only then did Jesus begin to address the crowd. And what he had to say was very much in terms of black and white.
He addressed his followers first, and talked about what it meant to be a disciple. He told them that they would face many hardships. Indeed, because they had chosen to follow him, they would not have an easy life. But in a sense that didn’t matter, because any follower of Jesus would be well and truly compensated by God. They would be given the divine gift of salvation. They would have the religious joy that only faith could bring. And God would bestow on them many other blessings besides.
Then in contrast, Jesus addressed the unbelievers in the crowd. He spoke to those who had come to listen, but had not yet made any commitment. And in contrast, Jesus spoke to them in terms of divine judgement, and a number of woes that they would face if they remained unbelievers.
Now in each case, Jesus didn’t say that these things might happen to them. He said that they would happen to them. The believers would face persecution—it was guaranteed—but they would receive their rewards from God too. In contrast unbelievers could continue to live their lives any way they wanted to, but in the end they would be punished. There were no if’s, but’s or maybe’s. Everything was black and white.
Now lest we think Jesus was being a bit rough, that he didn’t care, let’s think of the circumstances. Before his speech, Jesus had already demonstrated compassion for the people. He had healed people of their diseases, and he driven out unclean spirits. And only then did he encourage his disciples to stick with the faith, and speak to the unbelievers regarding the consequences of their lack of faith. Physical healing was fine, but people needed spiritual healing too.
In other words, Jesus did not talk about the two extremes, believing that there were shades in between. For Jesus there was no third option, there were no shades of grey.
Now many people today would like there to be more alternatives—and may even live in the belief that there are. But when it comes to the Christian faith it is a simple matter of black and white. Christianity is an exclusive religion. You either believe or you don’t; you’re either in or you’re out. And that is something that we need to consider for ourselves.
It is also something we need to consider when talking to others about our faith. Because we would be grossly negligent, indeed do others harm, if we should suggest to anyone that there is another way.
Posted: 6th September 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis