Publication: Pastoral Letter, March 2000

Dear Friend in Christ:

It is being widely reported that Jane Fonda has “found peace among those who have found peace with Jesus.” She has apparently become part of a Christian evangelical church, according to the January 29, 2000 edition of World Magazine. This is a startling – and encouraging – development to those of us who once had strong negative thoughts about her, due to her past positions and actions. We praise God for her salvation and for the peace that she has found in Christ.

Daughter of Hollywood actor Henry Fonda, Jane has starred in numerous films herself, winning two Academy Awards for Best Actress. Several of those movies had very suggestive themes or scenes. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Fonda was a prominent protester against the United States involvement in the Vietnam War. She went to Hanoi to give comfort to the enemy while our nation was at war. Later, she married another prominent militant activist, and continued to champion liberal, leftist causes. Then after a divorce, she married Ted Turner, the media mogul of CNN and Time-Warner fame, who also owns the Atlanta Braves baseball team.

Ted Turner is known not only for his wealth and power, but also for his open attacks on Christianity and the Ten Commandments. Fonda’s marriage to Ted Turner seemed to further enhance her image as anti-Christian. Until recent reports, there has been no public evidence that she had any positive views of Jesus Christ or the Church. She and Turner are now separated, and it is reported that her acceptance of Christ is a factor in the separation.

Obviously, the whole story has not yet come out, and a great deal of speculation is not healthy. However, I am fascinated by the story, in part because of my past opinions of Fonda and Turner. Now I am wondering if I should pray for Ted Turner to come to know Christ also, and for God to change my own attitude. And then, I wonder if I should change my attitude toward some other people so that my prayers could be effective.

A ONE-TO-ONE RELATIONSHIP
If Jane Fonda has met Christ, how did it happen? According to World Magazine, one woman was faithful to share Christ with Jane “in a one-on-one setting,” and continues to meet with her for Bible study and mentoring. She built a relationship of trust with Jane Fonda, arguably one of the world’s most recognizable and written about people, and she continues to guard Jane’s privacy in this matter. Rather than divulge many details, she says, “This is Jane’s story of faith, and how and when she decides to tell it is up to her….Her faith is real….God is at work in her life in a magnificent way.”

This woman was able to look beyond celebrity and controversy, caring enough about Jane Fonda as a person to build a relationship and to share Jesus with her. That is the point of this letter. One-to-one faith sharing – from a position of service, credibility, and compassion_is the key to real evangelism.

For so long, we have relied on church programs and “the professionals” to do our evangelizing. We have left those issues to the corporate church, to Dr. Billy Graham, or to Christian television. But whatever we leave to the corporate – and fail to practice personally_becomes a deception to us. We are kidding ourselves. What we do is what we believe. Sharing Christ is a job for all of us to do.

Beyond that, the world has become increasingly immune to church methods and programs. But those individuals who serve, who care, and are credible, can still reach non-Christian individuals. (Daniel, Joseph, and Nehemiah are good Old Testament examples of the truth that credible service can have great influence.)

TWO APPROACHES
John chapter 8 gives us an example of two entirely different approaches to someone who needs grace: the approach of Jesus versus the approach of the Pharisees.

The situation was that Jesus was speaking to a crowd and was interrupted by the Scribes and Pharisees, approaching him with a woman, whom they were dragging along.

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery! The Law of Moses says that she should be stoned; what do you say?”

Now we notice that they were only dragging the woman, and not the man who partnered with her in adultery. And it would seem that they had knowledge of this woman, and just where she may be committing adultery. The truth is that they cared little about the woman or her act. They were publicly humiliating her. And what they really wanted to do was embarrass and discredit Jesus!

Jesus stooped down to write in the dust with His finger. We are not told what He wrote. They pressed Him, believing that they had Him in a trap between mercy and Moses. “So…what do you say?”

Then Jesus stood up, and looking at them said, “Let the one of you that has no sin cast the first stone.”

Quietly, they left, one by one. Then Jesus looked at the woman.

“Does no one condemn you?”

“No, Lord, “ she said.

“Neither do I; go and sin no more.” He sent her on her way.

Her reply, “No, Lord,” indicates that she believed in Him, accepted His grace, and was changed. Ironically, the self-righteous Pharisees who thought of themselves as “good people” received a rebuke; the adulterous woman received redemption.

  • They called him a blasphemer; she called Him, “Lord.”
  • They only got more bitter; she got a new life.
  • Jesus succeeded in reaching needy people; the Pharisees failed.
  • They loved the Law; Jesus loved the people.
  • They would kill people for the Law; Jesus would die for the people.

The Law is good, holy, and perfect. But it cannot help us; it can only condemn us in our failure to keep it. Jesus came to keep the Law and be the Lamb for all of us who could not keep it.

SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS
Self-righteousness is the notion that “I am good…I can be righteous all on my own.” It comes from keeping the rules, whatever they are, and forgetting or ignoring where we have broken them. It comes when we begin to believe that God’s primary purpose is to make us good by rules, regulations, and good works, and when we begin to believe that we have succeeded. It comes when we have forgotten where we were when He found us, and have forgotten all of those who were used by Him to help us. And it comes when we forget that the mission is not us…it is others.

Self-righteous people commit several serious errors:
They fail to see the grace of God as the reason for their salvation.
They fail to be grateful.
They are insecure and need to be constantly reminded that they are doing good things…good works.
They fail to be gracious to others from a humble heart.
They are always ready to stone offenders.

Now, I do not want to be “self-righteous” about my own humility! What I want to say is that Christ is my only righteousness and He is all I have to give. I pray that I can do so with compassion and credibility…like Jane Fonda’s friend did.

OUR MISSION
Jesus said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10 NKJ). He further told us that He came, not to condemn, but to save (see John 3:17). Over and over, He demonstrated His mission to tax collectors, adulterers, demonized people, sick people…even in death, He forgave a thief. Jesus told his disciples, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21 NKJ). If we are his disciples today, we have that same mission.

To Jane Fonda, if you should ever read this, I am sorry that I didn’t understand my mission better. And, Ted Turner, I really do hope that you come to know our Lord…and not just through us…but in a personal way. And I pray that you and Jane can find peace in Jesus together. Finally, to the woman who loved Jane Fonda enough to tell her about Jesus, thank you also, not only for reaching out, but for being a model to the rest of us.

In Christ,
Charles Simpson

Scripture Reference: John 3:17; Luke 19:10; John 20:21; John 8