PEACE, NOT A SWORD?
by David Sisler
Randy Mickler took some heat last week. The Atlanta pastor made headlines when he said that Stephen Lebow could not preach from his pulpit. "To have a person who is a nonbeliever of Christ [preach from the pulpit where the Gospel is proclaimed] is ... dishonoring Christ," Mickler said.
Randy Mickler is the pastor of Mount Bethel United Methodist Church and Stephen Lebow is the rabbi serving Temple Kol Emeth.
The situation arose during planning for the Walton High School baccalaureate service. For the last seven years Mount Bethel has hosted the pre-graduation service. One of the key principles governing the event was that the church would have the final say in who gave the sermon. This year, Rabbi Lebow was asked and the church was not consulted.
Other problems developed when some members of the graduating class suggested that a shroud be placed over the cross of Christ, and that there would be no mention of the name of Jesus during the service. It was further suggested that there be no Bible readings.
Finally it was suggested that representatives from Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Wiccan be included in the non-denominational service. "At this point, we suggested that the service be relocated to a neutral facility so that all major religious faiths in the world could be represented," Pastor Mickler said.
In an effort keep the baccalaureate as inoffensive as possible, all Christian symbols were being deleted. That order of service may have been inoffensive to many of the event's planners, but it was highly offensive to Mickler. "When it comes to denying who we are, that's where we draw the line," he said. "This is not anti-Semitic. It's pro-Christ."
Chris Knowles, a member of the Walton High baccalaureate committee, called Mickler's stand, "divisiveness that's unnecessary."
"Three Days of Peace and Music" began on August 15, 1969, at Max Yasgur's farm in Sullivan County, NY. It was a music festival otherwise known as "Woodstock." A few weeks later in West Palm Beach, FL there was a smaller rock concert – 40,000 fans, as opposed to 400,000. One local church made plans to evangelize those who would attend the concert and they were passing out assignments.
One man asked, "Who will take the Hell's Angels?"
Sharon said, "I will."
The man ignored her and asked again, "Who will take the Hell's Angels?"
Again Sharon said, "I will."
"Sharon, you will be alone," the man said.
"That's the way I want it," she replied.
"Sharon, you will be raped," he said.
"I will go alone," she said. "I will take the Hell's Angels."
The man's fear seem to have been justified. Three weeks earlier, three Hell's Angels were killed when they were struck by a car driven by Sharon's sister. But it was Sharon who said, "I will take the Hell's Angels."
The Hell's Angels were off to one side. Sharon walked up to them and was immediately surrounded by 20 or 30 of them. No one could see Sharon. Everyone feared the worst.
Twenty minutes later the crowd separated and they saw Sharon, kneeling, and praying.
She spoke to them for 22 hours. She slept for two hours. She spoke 22 more hours. And then slept for two hours. And then 22 more hours of speaking.
Five of the Hell's Angels confessed Christ openly before the others.
Do you suppose five Hell's Angels would have openly confessed Jesus Christ if Sharon had soft-peddled Jesus Christ? Do you suppose five Hell's Angels would have openly confessed Jesus Christ if Sharon had presented a politically correct Jesus Christ, with no symbols, no cross, and no scripture?
Randy Mickler told his congregation: "Mount Bethel, I want you to understand, that never would I do anything to embarrass you or our non-Christian friends. At no time would I ever want our Jewish friends to feel slighted, hurt or embarrassed. I thank God for our Jewish friends' participation in this church. I would do nothing to cause you to think for a moment that you are not loved or appreciated.
"To my Christian friends," he added, "I remind you of the words of John Wesley. When he sent the Methodist ministers to America he said simply, ‘Preach Christ.' Political correctness was not in his vocabulary."
Jesus said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."
We want diversity today, infinite diversity in infinite combination. We do not understand that sometimes diversity means division. It is a two-edged sword. Where Jesus is concerned, a line has been drawn. It was drawn in blood at the foot of the Old Rugged Cross.
Note: Sharon's story was recounted by Ben Haden in 1990 in a sermon entitled, "Troubled or Fearful?"
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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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