In the 1960's I preached for a university congregation in Florida. John F. Kennedy ran for the Presidency. He was the first Catholic to run for President, and it was a dirty campaign that incorporated a lot of religious prejudice.

In the congregation was a professor who supported Kennedy and was deeply offended by the religious prejudice. One day he and I had a private conversation. He reacted against the common "slippery slope" argument that, if Kennedy were President, the Pope would control America.

I was not "into" politics and never knowingly used "preaching" to pursue political objectives. He said, "You would do the same thing, wouldn't you? If you had the power to make everyone do what you think is right, you would make them do it, wouldn't you?"

His question shocked me. I could not comprehend that any Christian seriously held that perspective. I managed only a simple "no." I was quite young (from my today's perspective!). I did not know a Christian could endorse a perspective of forced obedience. Forced obedience is faithless obedience.

Forced obedience (in any form) is not conversion. Conversion is based on three things. (1) It is based on the astounding realization that the resurrected Jesus is God's son [faith]. (2) It is based on a personal desire to redirect life [repentance]. (3) It is based on the personal determination to let Jesus teach you how to live life [commitment]. The combination of that realization, that desire, and that commitment expresses itself in the rebirth of baptism.

The problems we witness in the church astound us. Long ago Christians "bought" the assumption that being "the church" eliminated problems of every kind. I do not know how that assumption was created and empowered. Being "the church" in the first century did not eliminate the problems of their day.

Why are there so many problems among Christians today? Why do we find virtually every problem in our culture among those who have been baptized into Christ? Why? There are many reasons. Among them is this one: too many who were baptized were never converted.

One objective of our adult Sunday morning Bible classes is to convert the baptized to Jesus who is the Christ. Please begin or advance your conversion by studying with us.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 26 March 2000

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