Friday, January 21, 2011


Click here for the backstory on this post.

It didn’t take our new governor long to stumble with his comment that if you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, “You’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.” It took the governor a long time to apologize, saying he didn’t mean to offend. I’ve heard from lots of United Methodists who are not so much offended by the governor’s remarks as concerned that he – perhaps unintentionally – misrepresented the Christian faith.

While I’m glad that our dermatologist governor wants to be our brother in Christ, I want to assure him that, in Christ, we already are brothers. Christians don’t only accept Christ, Wesleyan Christians want to obey Christ and one way we obey Christ is by regarding those who once were strangers as our kin.

A number of United Methodists (many of whom say they are political supporters of the governor) have expressed dismay at his comments. Aside from noting the gap between our new governor’s rather irenic Inaugural Address and these comments in the setting of a church, I feel a need to clarify that Christians do not view someone as “brother” or “sister” on the basis of that person’s alleged faith commitments or personal virtues but rather on the basis of what we know of God in Jesus Christ.

Jesus has taught us to pray, “Our Father,” which naturally requires us to regard all children of the Father as siblings.

Christians don’t’ regard others as our brothers and sisters because they are members of our church, they affirm our creed, or because they are nice people. We relate to others as Jesus has related to us – making us brothers and sisters, not by virtue of who we are but on the basis of who he is.

As a Methodist preacher I know nothing of governing or dermatology. All I really know for sure is that God so loved the world (including those who, in my sin, I have yet to recognize as my sisters and brothers), that God gave us his Son who has a considerably more expansive definition of family than those in my political party, biological family, or church. I wouldn’t have known that my fellow citizens of Alabama are my brothers and sisters if Jesus Christ had not known me.

Will Willimon


Unknown said...

First of all what does our governor being a dermatologist have to do with anything? You went out of the way to mention this numerous times. Secondly, as a pastor I feel like your hermeneutics are suspect. "The Lord's Prayer" is a response to believers. The disciples, Jesus' closest followers, were asking how they should pray. "Our Father" is a term that can only be used by believers. As Christians we are "adopted" in to the family of Christ. Jesus says to unbelievers "depart from me for I never knew you". That does not seem like something a father could say to his child. Yes Jesus gave His life for all, but His death did not automatically make every person that has ever lived our brother. That turns in to universalism.

Unknown said...

After reading your condescending article about what the Governor stated at the Baptist Church I believe that with your politically correct speech you could lead the whole North Alabama Conference straight through the gates of Hell. Why is it becoming so difficult for Church leaders to speak the truth, either you are a Christian (brother) and will have eternal life or you’re not (brother of your father) and will be dammed to hell. There seems to be great wonder by Church leaders why Christianity is not growing in the United States, it may be that we are attempting to make Christianity an all inclusive religion, it is not! There are rules, the Bible states them in fairly simple terms but I find that many so called Biblical scholars attempt to make the Scriptures more difficult so that they may create “politically correct” exceptions. Is this why many of the Methodist leaders wanted the Church to accept homosexuality?

46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[c] do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

B. Matthews said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Matthews said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I have thought about this all day, I had hoped that something would lead my thought’s in a different direction but I have come to the conclusion, you must have a different version of the Bible than I have. Please let me know what version you are reading from? Or are you letting your politically correct self-righteous thoughts overcome the truth. I hate to be so condescending but please backup what you said or take your foot out of you mouth.

booklady said...

Thank you for your insightful comments. I finished reading the article with a fist pumping "Yes".

B'ham Billy said...

I can't see that the Bible sets out to demonstrate explicitly one way or the other who is or is not our brothers and sisters.

John Welch said...

Good for you, Bishop Willimon.

I have always felt -- not just thought -- that God created us all, He is "our Father", which makes all of us His children. It does not seem that I, or even a group of "elect" people, make the decisions about the fatherhood of God and the child-status of humans.

Maybe I learned it as far back as Methodist Sunday School, or maybe from singing "This is my Father's world". Either way, I think you express the essence of John Wesley, Methodism, and Christianity, and have said just a Methodist Bishop should say.


John Welch

B. Matthews said...

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Scripture speaks of being adopted and being born again. There are other interesting passages dealing with what it means to be a son/child of God. However, I find none that imply that all people are in relationship with God as Father.

B. Matthews said...

For those who believe that this premise is true to our Wesleyan heritage, please read Wesley's sermon, "Marks of the New Birth" (sermon 18 of Wesley's 52 standard sermons). He repeatedly makes the point that to be a son or daughter of God, one must be born again and show marks of the new birth.

I have seen neither Scripture nor Wesley quoted to support the position of universal sonship. Are we, as United Methodists, still Wesleyan?

"But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith." Written to the church of Galatia: Galatians 3:25-26

Anonymous said...

Bishop Willimon I am not Methodist but I have read much of what you have written and you are an inspirattion.

I am stunned to read the critical remarks following this post. God said 'vengence is mine', Jesus said 'come follow me' and later said 'I have the authority to judge but did not come to judge' and one of the last things he said before going to the cross was 'I give you a new command! Love one another, the way I love you, you must love one another.

Apple trees have apples, pear trees have pears. Followers of Jesus are increasing more loving, patient, gentle, controlled, joyfull...

I was a militant atheist but was lead to Christ, not by people who waged their finger, pointing out that I was on the outside, I was lead to Christ by people who kind, and loving, who listened and cared and was sympathetic.

North American church has been in decline for a very long time and having been on both sides of the line, I think I understand why.

Holier than thou, Christians with snarky Jesus bumper stickers who eat Saturday lunch at chick-fil-a most often are just as worldy, mean and selfish as us heathen sinners. Who wants to be a part of that.

When we love people like Jesus, it is irresistable and sensationable. Certainly Jesus said 'go and sin no more' but the only people Jesus rejected was the religious people who were all worked up about the 'rules'.

That's my two cents. I may owe you change.