The Centrality of the Gospel

25 09 2009

Last night I went to one my churches men’s events. It was a good night of fellowship, food and a good speaker. Rob Thompson had broken the world record for the longest journey on a skateboard (12,000km). He had skateboarded through Europe, across the USA and then through China. While it was a n amazing story of courage and perseverance, I came to see that Rob’s ideology was the epitome of post modernity. When asked about his faith journey, Rob told of his disillusionment with Christianity. He had a “superiority complex” that believed Christianity was light to the world, and everything else was darkness. But he saw such love, beauty and goodness out there that to him this paradigm was shattered. When He returned to NZ he decided that he did not want to be a Christian anymore. Yet now after trying different paths he has come back to Faith, and we are studying the same diploma at the same Bible college. But for him it was not the Gospel or the love of Christ that would change the world, rather it was compassion, justice and love that would. While I sympathize with Rob’s story, I found it was full of false antitheses. I believe Rob has a few issues to work through still, as we all do, and we would do well to give him, and other post modern Christians a wide berth of grace.

For too long the Church has put politics, social action and the Gospel into separate boxes. Somehow one has nothing to do with the other. Yet this is a false split. When Paul says that no one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit, he is making a very political statement, in a world where Caesar was Lord and demanded total obedience. Paul was effectively saying you owe allegiance to another King, one greater than Caesar, and one who show’s Caesar’s gospel to be a sham. When the Angels appeared to the Shepherds in Luke’s Gospel proclaiming that a saviour and Lord has come that is a very political statement over against Caesar who proclaimed himself as the saviour and Lord of the world. However Caesars Gospel brought peace at the end of a sword, and Jesus brought it by his death, resurrection and gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus brought mankind into right relationship with God, gave manking peace with God, and brought God’s kingdom into the present. The Gospel expresses itself in the world by a concern for the world, a concern for those who don’t know Jesus, a concern for the poor, a concern for God’s justice to reign, a concern truth, goodness, beauty and a longing for God to set the world to rights. Thats the best kind of social action there is and the Gospel should be the best motivation for it. However the Church has not always understood the Gospel this way, and has seen it as “fire insurance”, a ticket out of hell. While true, it is not the whole story. This world is not a cosmic waiting room, and we do not escape the earth in the end either. Revelation 21-22 tells of a renewed heaven and a renewed earth. In fact Heaven comes to Earth and the two are joined forever. Our existence will always be earthly and physical. We must anticipate this ending in the present and seek to show the world the reason for the hope that is in us.

While I agree with those who seek to remove the false split between, Gospel, Politics and Social action, we must be wise, and Bruce Milne gave me some of the best wisdom. In his commentary on John (BST Series) he says a political messiah leaves the heart of sinners unchanged. While some good may come of the political action, if done solely for political reasons with an unchanged heart the lasting effect is as good as filthy rag. We must not confuse political action and social justice with the Gospel, but see it as a necessary flow on from the Gospel.

Time and Time again I keep hearing that post modern’s want to see that the Gospel works before they will believe. If thats true then we as the renewed community of God, the true Israel, the followers of Jesus need to demonstrate by our works that our faith is not dead.

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