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What does it mean to give back the name of Christ?

April 16, 2010

A few days, Jeff Spector wrote a great post at Mormon Matters entitled, “Giving Back His Name.” It was actually much in the same of a tradition of posts that I’ve seen for a while…what happens to those who leave?

Of course, the difference here is that Jeff doesn’t simply mean, “What happens to those who leave the church?” As he writes,

And while the Church teaches that salvation and exaltation come in and through the Lord’s true church, even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one can make the case that taking on the name of Jesus Christ and belonging to the LDS Church can be independent of one another. You will not find that taught in the Church, but certainly, there are many, many non-LDS Christians who are deeply committed to the Savior, follow His example and keep His commandments as best they can.

So, the question isn’t so much asking about what happens to those who leave the LDS sphere of things, as I inquired for others’ opinions on at Mormon Matters as well. Rather, it’s asking…what happens to those who leave the entire sphere of Jesus Christ?

I didn’t think was all that interesting of a question. After all, depending on what you believe the answer is pretty straightforward. But I liked this post because it gave me chance to think about something else. What does it mean to leave? What does it take to give back the name of Christ? My comment is here.

A while ago, I heard a different (and refreshingly so) argument about the nature of Christianity, following Christ, and so forth.

I had always supposed what I feel is the “straightforward” answer. Accepting Christ is about verbal assent…it’s about trust to someone named Jesus Christ. It’s about saying (whether in heart or aloud) “I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins,” and other things like that.

And rejecting Christ is similarly literal, verbal, straightforward. If you say it, then you are out.

But someone raised that that may not be the case, and they raised some scriptures to point it out.

First, Matthew 7: 21-23.

21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

I’m certain some people are ready to say, “Well, that’s just how you can tell false prophets.” And some might even go further and say, “So Mormons don’t have the name of Christ.”

Ppphhhhb. Anyway, the person who raised this scripture was trying to make a different point. Clearly, it’s not just saying “I believe in you, Lord” that does it. Demons believe, shudder, etc.,

So, what does it mean to do the will of the father and who can do it?

The individual quoted Matthew 25: 31-46 for the latter question. Particularly relevant were verses 37-40:

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

The individual took this to mean that…the righteous may not recognize they are righteous. They might not have recognized the Lord. I sense that this person took an uncommon viewpoint, but he suggested that someone who — from face value — rejected Jesus could nevertheless serve him.

And what is the Father’s will? What does he command?

You can find the two great commands in places like Mark 12. Love God with all heart, mind, strength, etc., and love neighbor as thyself.

…Aha! Atheists and nonbelievers can’t do the first of these.

Or is that the case?

Going back to parable of sheep and goats, what if the way to “love god with all heart, mind, strength” is by loving the least of these? In that way, it would make sense that some who cry “God, God” or “Lord, Lord” might never have been known by him, whereas those who wonder when they ever served Christ (perhaps with great incredulity that they ever did such a thing, since they may have been ardent opponents in word and thought) might end up having been on the team all along.

Perhaps these few scriptures have been taken out of context, or interpreted in an untenable way, or a viewpoint not supported by other scriptures. Regardless, I think it shows that there is a better question than “What happens to those who give back the name of Christ?” (however we will refer to it). Rather, we should ask what it truly means to take (and, to give back) the name of Christ in the first place.

The answers might be different than we had supposed.


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