Published November 6, 2003
I was privileged to attend the National Prayer Breakfast on February 3, 1994 in Washington, D.C. The occasion attracted a "Who's Who" list of America's most notable government and civic leaders. The primary speaker for the occasion was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India.
The diminutive nun was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje (now in Macedonia) to Albanian parents on August 26, 1910. By the time she was twelve she had developed a special interest in international missions and knew that her ministry was to be to the poor, downtrodden people of this world. Known as "The Saint of the Gutters" this Roman Catholic nun spent most of her life caring for the sick, the outcast, the helpless people of India who were in her words "nothing less than Christ in distressing disguise".
In 1979 Mother Teresa accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in the name of the "unwanted, unloved and uncared for". On one occasion Pope Paul VI gave her a Lincoln Continental and she auctioned it off and used the proceeds to establish a leper colony in West Bengal. It would be difficult for anyone to question the selfless spirit of this woman who cared for the impoverished with reckless abandon.
Mother Teresa died in 1997 at the age of 87 after a long life of faithful and magnanimous service to the destitute people of this world. On Sunday, October 19th, six years after her death, hundreds of thousands of Roman Catholic pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in Rome to observe the ceremony to mark the beatification of Mother Teresa.
Typically, the road to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church is a long and arduous process stipulating that one miracle must be attributed to the candidate before beatification and a second miracle attributed to the candidate after beatification. The ceremony at the Vatican on October 19th marked the fastest ever process of beatification in the Catholic Church.
I will never forget what this missionary to the poorest of the poor said at the National Prayer Breakfast. She lamented, "I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. Any county that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."
So, I have a great deal of admiration for Mother Teresa, but I vehemently disagree with the Roman Catholic pathway to sainthood. I believe that anyone who has come to faith in Jesus Christ is a saint. In fact, the New Testament refutes a special class of "saints". Unger's Bible Dictionary says, "While it is true that in experience some believers are more "holy" than others, yet in their position before God, all believers are sanctified, thus saints by virtue of what they are in "in Christ".
Adrian Rogers says that there are two classes of people: the saints and the "aints". When the Apostle Paul wrote his first epistle to the church in Corinth he penned, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our lord, both theirs and ours: grace be unto you ..." (I Corinthians 1: 2-3a).
Every saved Georgia Baptist is a saint. We are the children of God, heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8: 17). "We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people (and) called ...out of darkness into his marvelous light" (I Peter 2: 9). The redeemed have become new creations, have new names written down in glory, have a new citizenship (heaven) and already made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Christians are children of the King - royal bluebloods.
The way to sainthood is not through St. Peter's Square, but through Calvary's cross. Since those of us who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb have become "saints" we must remember to live like who we are.
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