Shibboleths

January 21, 2014

“… ‘Then say, ‘Shibboleth’!’ And he would say, ‘Sibboleth,’ for he could not pronounce it right. Then they would take him and kill him at the fords of the Jordan. There fell at that time forty-two thousand Ephraimites.”  (Judges 12:6)

Although we Americans have a common language we all have accents that show our origins to a discerning ear.  The above incident demonstrates how thousands of years ago different regional accents caused the death of 42,000 people.

There had been a civil war among people of the same ethnicity.  As the victors captured survivors, the only way to tell if they were the enemy was to force them to say “Shiboleth.”  When prisoners could not pronounce the “sh” sound because of their regional accents, 42,000 of them were executed.

What does all this have to do with us today?  Metaphorically speaking, when we meet people we often have a hidden theological agenda.  If they do not say that which agrees with our hidden agenda we hit the reject button.  The sad thing is that they never even know why we have rejected them.

As a pastor since 1956, I have been greatly blessed by people who did not have the same precise theological agenda as mine.  While meeting recently with two of the founders of the church where I am now Pastor Emeritus, we thanked God that we did not miss the blessings of our relationships over the past 35 years.  Coming from diverse theological backgrounds, we could have hit the reject button when we met in 1979 if we each had tried to push our theological agendas.

As Christ prayed that we might be one as He is one with the Father, may we watch out for Shibboleths that divide us.  Instead, let’s focus on Jesus Christ and the supernatural unity we have in  Him.


Oneness

April 25, 2012

“Is Christ divided?”   (1 Corinthians 1:13)

 In the great prayer our Lord prayed for His Church (John 17), Jesus asked His Father, not once but five times, that we all might be one.  In light of that great prayer priority of our Lord, is it not an evidence of the work of the evil one when we consider all the “sects and insects and isms and spasms” that say they are His true Church today?

The risen, living Christ can be known by His followers today.  One of the favorite ways the authors of the New Testament identify the authentic followers of Jesus is when they refer to them as being “in Christ.”  When His Church in Corinth was hopelessly divided the Apostle Paul asked that church a very appropriate question: “Is Christ divided?”

If thinking people really track with the authors of the New Testament would they not think it strange if people profess to be in Christ and then cannot agree on anything?  There is, however, a supernatural oneness or agreement among people who are truly in Christ today.

Many decades ago when African American believers were petitioning white churches in the southern part of our country to integrate I discovered that it didn’t matter whether the people in my church were born in northern or southern United States.  What mattered in my congregation was whether or not they were born again.  Christ does not feel more than one way about civil rights.  Neither will we if we are born again and in Christ.

Paul concludes the second chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians by claiming that we have the mind of Christ.  If we in fact do have the mind of Christ we will agree.


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