I am not a Muslim. Nor am I a Jew, a Hindu, Buddhist, Methodist, Catholic or Baptist (although I honor and cherish my Baptist background); nor am I an advocate for any of the above. I recognize that each has made positive contributions and had negative impact on human history, and I respect the right of anyone to adhere to any of them.
This writing will not argue the relative merits or weaknesses of any of the above. While I am more than willing to share my own faith perspectives with any who want to hear, I have no desire—indeed, I have no right—to inflict my perspectives on anyone who does not wish to listen.
I advocate open sharing between all the above, in order to generate greater mutual understanding and appreciation, because there is much common ground among all us—common ground upon which to build a more peaceful, cooperative and enriched humanity.
But I face a wall. I've lived on the other side of the wall, so I think I understand and empathize with those who are there, and I have no wish to insist that they conform to my perspective before we proceed.
Here’s the wall: there are those who, because of their utterly sincere faith and commitment do insist that all humanity accept their confession of faith before we proceed. Nor does their faith and commitment encourage them to collaborate with those who are not under their roof.
I understand that. As I say, I’ve held the same passion as they; a passionate belief that they hold the exclusive, ultimate truth of God—which is the only path to God and to eternal salvation—and that they are responsible for proclaiming that truth until all of humanity has accepted it and has made the same affirmations they have made.
I honor that sense of commitment, nor would I ask them to cease and desist in their efforts (although I would wish them to honor the rights of those who feel violated by some of their strategies. Indeed, I find some of their strategies counterproductive to the Gospel. That’s another debate I’m willing to pursue, but in a different venue.)
Jim Wallis recalls a public forum in which he debated a close friend and colleague, Southern Baptist seminary president, Dr. Albert Mohler. The topic was, “Is social justice an essential part of the gospel and the mission of the church?”
Wallis argued yes, justice is integral to the gospel. Dr. Mohler said no, arguing that social justice was important but that “the gospel” was the atonement brought about in Christ that saves us from our sins and secures our souls for heaven. Wallis reports:
“It was a very civil and respectful conversation because Al and I know each other and because both of us wanted to demonstrate a kind of discourse different from what now prevails in our culture and politics. But we did disagree, and our disagreement is at the heart of very different visions today for the future of the church” (emphasis mine).
First of all, I find it refreshing and encouraging when disagreeing Christians debate with civility and respect, and remain close friends.
In this writing, let’s affirm Dr. Mohler’s stance that biblical imperatives for justice are important, but only an implication of the gospel. In practice, I have rarely seen evangelicals acknowledge social justice as important at all.
In fairness, I confess that, except for a few congregations and isolated judicatory examples, my own denomination is seriously lacking in effective evangelistic theory and practice. Actually, many of our constituents reject evangelism as valid (although, I have the sense that by evangelism they mean those counterproductive strategies to which I refer earlier).
So, here’s my question: can we overlap? Is it possible for evangelical and mainline Christians to work together on both evangelism and social justice without anyone compromising a priority?
I understand that we don’t even agree on terminology (e.g., I and most mainline Protestants don’t buy “substitutionary” atonement.)
But, bottom line, whether atonement/justification/salvation is substitutionary or exemplary or sacramental or reconciliatory or universal, the overwhelming majority of Christians will agree that Jesus is the medium through which God extended (or at least demonstrated) that salvation, and that such extension/demonstration was an expression of pure grace.
Never mind that we won’t even agree totally on what grace is (e.g., virtually all will say it is “unmerited favor;” that it can’t be earned. But some will place prerequisites upon the reception of grace, while others will say it is given gratuitously.)
Never mind that we will never agree on all of the faith. Can we at least start to work together, just so the world can witness what a united Body of Christ looks like?
Gandhi is reported to have said, “I love your Jesus. It’s Christians that give me problems.”
A sizeable portion of the generation called “Millennials” would agree, and are leaving the church en mass. Thomas G, Bandy calls them the fastest growing spiritual population in North America: the "spiritually yearning, institutionally disillusioned public."
Can we begin to remove that roadblock to the Gospel?
That’s how I see it through the flawed glass that is my world view.
Together in the Walk,
 I do not limit this discussion to the groups named above; indeed, should I try to be all-inclusive, it would be an exercise in futility. Suffice it to say that the above constitutes a representative sampling of the human diversity that I believe enriches humanity.
 Wallis is a self-proclaimed evangelical; although, his social activism has resulted in his being pushed, at best, to the periphery of evangelical circles. Indeed, many evangelicals reject him as a valid Christian voice.
 Wallis, Jim (2013-08-15). Who Jesus Is and Why It Matters (Ebook Shorts) (Kindle Locations 192-213). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.