(The scene is a school bus. The students are on a field
trip. The conversation is between Jeremy and Esther, a member of a non-denominational
Fundamentalist Christian church)
Esther: Hey Jeremy, want to go to the school dance this Friday night?
Jeremy: Sure. That sounds great. What time does it start?
Esther: I think it starts at 7:30. My dad can drive us.
Jeremy: I'll have to meet you there because I want to go to the Stations of the Cross. I'll only be a few minutes late. My mom can drop me off.
Esther: Stations of the Cross? I've never heard of that. Is it some kind of family thing?
Jeremy: Kind of. It's a devotion that the Catholic Church observes, usually during lent. The Stations retrace the steps of Jesus on His way to Calvary. This is our way of following, and relating to, the Gospel account of the Crucifixion in a special way.
Esther: Catholic?! You're a Catholic? I thought you were a Christian.
Jeremy: Catholics are Christians. As a matter of fact, we were the first to be called Christian. We were called Christian even before we became known as Catholic.
Esther: Jeremy. Have you been saved?
Jeremy: Saved? What do you mean by that?
Esther: Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you believe that He died for your sins? Have you been saved?
Jeremy: Yes... by that definition, I guess I've been saved. Is that it?
Esther: Yes. That's it. Isn't it wonderful that you're assured of salvation. Nothing you can ever do can change that.
Jeremy: Wait a minute! That all sounds great, but is that part of your definition?
Esther: Yes. We accept Jesus Christ. We are born again. Our sinfulness is covered over by His blood, and we are sure to go to Heaven.
Jeremy: By that definition, I am not saved. As a Catholic, I believe in Jesus and know that He is my Savior, but I don't believe that I will automatically go to Heaven just because I believe I will. Don't you think that I could commit sin while still believing in Jesus?
Esther: Yes, but Jesus died for your sins. He has paid the price.
Jeremy: Now I understand what you're talking about. We call that Redemption. Let me explain it like this; Let's say that you are going to circle K to get a coke. Your dad gives you the money. He has paid the price. You have it in your possession, but right up until the minute you actually purchase the coke you are free to change your mind. Your father has paid for you to have a coke, but you are still free to spend the money on whatever you want. This is what we call free will and God has never taken that privilege away from us.
Esther: Do you think that God would let you make a mistake like that?
Jeremy: I know that God loves us unconditionally and that means we are free to live with the consequences of our decisions. What you are describing is more like the choice God gave to the angels. They got one shot at it. The ones who chose obedience to God stayed in Heaven and the ones who refused God... well they're not even worth mentioning. The point is that an assurance of Heaven for the angels meant a one time choice or decision, but for man, obedience and disobedience are choices that we make every minute of our lives right up to the end.
Esther: But in Ephesians 2:19 Paul said, "You are no longer exiles... you belong to God's household."
Jeremy: Saint Paul also said, "I who have preached... may be rejected." He also said, "God will award to every man what his acts have deserved." What about when he said, "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling." This hardly sounds like a man who was riding any sort of assurances. Haven't you ever heard of anyone being saved then turning their back on God?
Esther: When someone who has been born again turns away from God, we call that backsliding. It's unfortunate, but that does happen.
Jeremy: I think you just contradicted yourself. Didn't you just say that once you are born again you are assured of salvation? Do you realize that Jesus Himself said that nothing unclean can enter into Heaven.
Esther: I said that our sinfulness is covered by the Blood of Jesus Christ.
Jeremy: What you're describing would almost be like taking a person who has not bathed in years, putting clean clothing on him and shipping him off to Heaven. Jesus compared that to washing only the outside of a cup and not worrying that the inside is still filthy. You do wash the insides of the cups and glasses at your house, don't you? I mean you can see that that's pretty important, right?
Esther: Yes, I do, and by the same token, Jesus will forgive us if we sin.
Jeremy: Exactly. Jesus will forgive us, but the choice to ask for forgiveness is still ours. This is why we say, "pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death", in the Hail Mary.
Esther: Hail?! Mary?! So it is true. Catholics really do worship Mary.
Jeremy: I think you are confusing the words worship and honor. When we say Hail Mary, we are echoing the words of the Angel Gabriel in the Gospel of Luke. The word Angel means messenger. He was delivering a message from God. He said, "Hail (Mary) thou art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women." That is the first half of the prayer that we call Hail Mary and that's exactly the way it reads in the Protestant Bible.
Esther: What do you mean, Protestant Bible? What's the difference? Is there a special version for Catholics?
Jeremy: The original version was written and preserved by the Catholic Church. The major difference is that about 1200 years after the Catholics finished, certain parts were censored by Protestants who were busy starting their own churches.
Esther: Are you trying to say that my King James Bible is inadequate?
Jeremy: No, just incomplete. Now let's get back to your Mary phobia. Jesus said, "follow me", by this He meant for us to follow His example. He also said, "I am the way", which was another indication that He meant for us to follow His example.
Esther: I know that, but what does that have to do with Mary?
Jeremy: It has everything to do with her. Jesus honored her by choosing Mary to be His mother. How can I follow Jesus without honoring the blessed Virgin Mary?
Esther: Why do you call her Virgin Mary? You don't really think she was a virgin even after she gave birth to Jesus, do you? Matthew 1:25 says, "(Joseph) had no relations with her until she bore a son."
Jeremy: So, if I told you that a soldier went to war and was safe until he returned home, you would understand that to mean that when he got home he was killed by the enemy, right?
Esther: Well no. That would just be an expression.
Jeremy: Can you see the similarities between the two statements? It would be a shame to base your whole standpoint on one passage that you might be misinterpreting.
Esther: What about the passage that mentions Jesus had brothers and sisters?
Jeremy: What language did Jesus speak?
Esther: Hebrew, I guess.
Jeremy: Jesus spoke Aramaic.
Jeremy: In Aramaic there is no word for cousin. If a person were going to describe a male cousin he would have to say something like my mother's brother's son, or he could just use the word brother. The "brothers" in the Gospel are actually cousins. There were no brothers to take care of Mary after the Crucifixion, so in the Gospel of John Chapter 19 verse 27, Jesus says to the beloved Apostle, "Behold, your mother," and from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
Esther: I'm going to have to read that part again.
Jeremy: That's a good idea, and while you're at it take notice of the fact that Jesus was completely human in every way except sin. This is very important when you consider that as a human He was subject to the ten commandments which He would have followed perfectly. The fourth commandment says: Honor thy father and mother. The Hebrew words actually translate this as glorify or exalt, but for now, let's just use the word honor. Jesus would have followed this commandment and honored Mary. I can't be His follower unless I do too. After all, He did say, "If you love Me, keep My commandments."
Esther: But don't you think it takes some of the glory away from Jesus?
Jeremy: That would be like saying that Jesus would somehow be jealous of the honor we show His mother. I have a mother and I expect people to respect her. I'll bet Jesus feels the same way about His mother.
Jeremy: Here's something else to consider. I have heard you refer to Jesus as your brother. How can you expect to have Him for a brother and not get Mary for your mother as part of the package?
Esther: But she was just a woman with the same flaws as any other human.
Jeremy: Don't you remember? Gabriel said: "blessed art thou among women." I think that anything less than a special woman would have been a put down to Jesus.
Esther: A put down?
Jeremy: He deserved the best and God prepared a woman, a blessed woman to carry and care for His son.
Esther: I don't know what to say.
Jeremy: Well, I'll tell you what I'd say if I were you. I'd get down on my knees and say, "Dear God, please forgive me for not showing your mother the honor You thought she deserved. That would be a good start.
Esther: Well, you seem to know what you're talking about, but I'm going to have to ask my Pastor.
Jeremy: That's just what I would do if I were confused. Hey look! We were so busy talking that I didn't even notice how long the trip was. We're already here. It's been great talking to you. Are we still on for the dance?
Esther: Of course. You say you'll meet me there right after the Stations of the Cross?
Esther: Hmmm. Stations of the Cross. That sounds pretty cool. Can we talk about this again sometime?
Jeremy: That's one thing
you can be assured of, Esther.