Everyone wants to be special. Everyone.
Some people think they are special. Especially Baptists in America.
Every Sunday in every church across our land, Baptists can be heard thanking God for blessing them with the high privilege and honor of being born in the United States of America.
Baptists in America are both patriotic and religious. We are fully aware that we are fortunate to have been born in America. We know that we enjoy political freedoms and have access to rich material resources that are unavailable to people born in other nations.
Whatever our ancestors may have done to obtain and secure these things, and no matter what we ourselves have done to maintain these things, we know that we did nothing to deserve to be born with these advantages.
For us, it is more than an accident of birth. It is truly the gift of God and a blessing of divine providence. This knowledge and awareness form the practical meaning for the doctrine of election in the hearts of most Baptists.
More than anything else, what needs to be reformed in Baptist identity is how we understand our chosenness. Baptist identity needs to be reformed to give a clearer reflection of the image of Christ.
There is no denying that for most of us, being born in the U.S. is a privilege and a blessing. Blessings, however, can become a curse if we fail to comprehend their purpose.
The Jews at the time of Jesus misunderstood the meaning of election. More than anything else, they thought their election meant they were privileged in God’s eyes and they were keen on preserving those privileges. They were quick to stand guard over the barriers they erected to keep the Gentiles at a distance from their blessings.
Jesus revealed that the meaning of election is not about privilege but about service. Everyone who is chosen by God is chosen for service. Jesus also revealed the meaning of service to God. Jesus set aside his power and privileges and submitted himself to death on a cross in the service of God. That is what he was chosen to do.
When he died, the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom. God himself tore down all the barriers that had been erected to keep people at a distance from his blessings.
Everyone who responds to the call of God has been chosen for service. Service to God always involves sacrifice. We have been commanded to take up our own cross when we follow Jesus. At the very least that means that we must be willing to share the blessings that God has given us with others.
Too many Baptists in America resemble the ancient Jews more than Jesus. They are more concerned about preserving the privileges of their nationality than with sharing the blessings of the good news about God’s love for all people.
Too many Baptists are among the armed vigilantes standing guard at our borders.
Too many Baptists are among the placarded protestors at tea parties blocking the entrance to our medical clinics.
Too many Baptists think God called them for pampering and privilege rather than for sacrificial service.
Blessings can quickly turn into curses when we insist on hoarding them all for ourselves rather than sharing them freely with others.
Bruce Prescott, now retired, served as executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists from 1998-2014.