February 23, 2009

Jimmy Carter on Christianity

With only a few minutes left in his address at the New Baptist Covenant gathering Jan. 31, former president Jimmy Carter asked the 1,200 congregants at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., “How many believe we are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ?”

The congregation answered, “Amen.”

Carter asked, “How many believe that we should put aside our personal differences and work in unity to spread the gospel of our savior?”

The congregation replied, “Amen.”

“The most important fundamental belief is the basic gospel message that we have already mentioned. We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Will you say that with me?” asked Carter.

“We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ,” said congregants in unison with Carter.

He said, “We, Christians, can and must reach out to each other and stand united.”

Carter’s questions and challenge came after he shared that he and his wife, Rosalynn, had visited more than 125 nations, many of which are in Africa. He had noted that discussions with national leaders inevitably turned to religion.

“What is the prevailing image of Christians in those nations? It’s not the dedicated work of our missionaries. It’s not the inspired sermons of Billy Graham or other great preachers. It is the image of division among brothers and sisters in Christ,” Carter lamented. “As we struggle with each other for authority or argue about the interpretation of individual verses in scriptures, the arguments and even the animosities among Christians are like a cancer that has metastasized in the body of Christ. This plagues us with diversions.”