By John Amoda
THE title of the essay implies that both religions, Christianity and Islam are anti-ecumenist, and depend on the growth of their adherents on convertion of non-believers.
The issue therefore is not whether these two religions should proselytize, but in what manner. The Bible does not advocate judgmental evangelisation. Christ sent his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations of salvation, not to condemn the world (John 3:17).
The God who sent Jesus into this world and the Jesus who came to do the will of the God who sent Him, have no ambition to rule this world but to ‘establish the kingdom of God; a kingdom not of “This World”.
The context of the Christian Gospel is thus that of Redemption- for Jesus has ‘given himself a ransom for all”. The call of Christ’s disciples is to pray for rulers and those in authority.
So Paul recommends to Christ’s disciples “that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercession and giving of thanks be made for all men.
For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:1-6).
The God who is to be preached to all as “our saviour” wants all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth”. People need to be saved only when they are imperiled, when they are in dire danger.
Being saved is not the sum total of God’s concern for man. He desires that we all live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty; and that all mankind come to the knowledge of the truth.
The truth is that “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. The peculiar truth about this man Christ Jesus is that “He gave himself a ransom for all”. He did not give himself a ransom for Jews only.
He gave himself a ransom for both Jews and Gentiles when they did not know this truth. God wants mankind to know that this Jesus offered himself a ransom for all.
This man’s job as mediator demanded that he offer himself, not that he be offered as a ransom for all- all includes all races, all classes, or all adherents of all religions, including idolators; all were ransomed “while we were yet sinners… In due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:8, 6).
Christ died for sinners “when we were enemies; we were reconciled to God by the death of the Son” (Romans 5:10). This giving of himself as a ransom was not a ‘quid pro quo” bargain; it was all one sided offer, total and complete on God and Christ’s side.
The one and only responsibility of the Christian is to preach the gospel. His responsibility does not include compelling those to whom the gospel is preached to believe the Gospel.
Preaching the gospel is a command; receiving the gospel is a matter of choice. Jews of the Levitical Faith rejected this Gospel. Nevertheless this is the Lord’s Commission to his Jewish disciples:
“Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning atJerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).
The command implies that all are in need of the Gospel and a Christian is under command to preach the Gospel to all without exception. We could preach the Gospel with a superiority complex.
This is disrespect to those preached to. Such disrespect is informed by ignorance of God’s grace by which all can been saved and remain saved. Paul the great evangelist of the Gospel cautions against arrogant and prideful obedience. In preaching the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul warns:
“Give none offence, neither to the Jews nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God, Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:32-33).
The same Paul explains how he could serve God without making enemies of those God has already redeemed by his grace and his grace alone.
“For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without the law, as without the law, (being not without the law to God, but under the law to Christ) that I might gain them that are without the law.
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak. I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
And this I do for the gospel’s sake that I might be partaker thereof with you” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Paul was no ecumenist yet he was a good ambassador of the Gospel of reconciliation in his approach to those of different faiths.