Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. (1 John 5:1)
For those of you that do not keep abreast of news among the various Christian denominations, you may not be aware of the significant occurrence that happened in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) recently. For the first time in its history, the SBC elected a black president. This is very significant because the SBC was formed prior to the Civil War due to a split among Baptists over the issue of slavery. The Southern Baptists were in favor of slavery, which as you might expect turned very quickly from a civil issue into a theological one. Baptists in the North could no longer in good conscience remain in fellowship with those in the South because of their dehumanization of this race of people.
As you are aware, the Southern states held on to their prejudices well past the end of the Civil War and in some areas those prejudices still strongly remain. I grew up in the South and am well acquainted with racially segregated churches. Much of this is due to prejudice, but in some cases it is preferred by both blacks and whites as a matter of ministerial prudence. I do not have space to delve into the reasons here, but suffice it to say sometimes ministers have to deal with issues as they are. The most important issue is the condition of the heart, and until people truly understand how the gospel produces an indissoluble union between all the redeemed in Christ we have to deal with people as they are. It is fruitless to attempt a real reformation of attitudes without the Holy Spirit’s regeneration of the mind.
Our church has serious doctrinal issues with the SBC mainstream. More than fifty years ago my church in Kentucky disassociated with the SBC over theological liberalism which has only grown worse since that time. There is a reform movement in the SBC to bring it back to its original theological base (minus the racial prejudice, of course), which we whole heartedly endorse. I have no idea where the new SBC president stands on doctrinal issues. However, I do know where a man stands on the word of God is far more important than his race.
With these thoughts in mind, we turn to the passage before us. 1 John 5:1 teaches the unity of all believers in Christ. If we love Christ, we will love every person that has become a child of God through faith in Him. I have often spoken of the joy of racial diversity in our church. It is comforting to know that God works in the hearts of people of all races and nationalities. The gospel is the same for all and is not confined to one people group. God respects no person because of race. He only sees two people groups in the world. Either they are believers and are in His kingdom or they are unbelievers and are in the kingdom of Satan. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom while Satan’s kingdom will be destroyed.
One of the most important points made by John in this epistle is this defining characteristic of God’s people: Christians love other Christians. The love of Christ for us produces the love of Christ in us. We love Christ supremely which in turn causes us to love every other person that He loves. Regard for this important principle is the backbone for peace, love, and harmony in the church.
Pastor V. Mark Smith