Love them into the kingdom

Love them into the kingdom

There is a growing trend in some evangelical churches to ‘soften’ the gospel as we work with those in deprived areas. Not soften it so much as tone the language down a bit. Emphasise love. ‘Jesus loves you.’ I was amused several months ago when one of the locals turned to a young believer (visiting us) and asked, ‘So, am I going to hell then or what?’ The young man in question just turned red and had no answer. ‘The answer you’re looking for is yes unless you turn to Christ for help.’ I helpfully chipped in. The young believer drank his coffee quickly and left. His is a generation living in the maxim: ‘Preach the gospel and if necessary use words’ (something like that). My advice to these people is: ‘Don’t come to Niddrie.’

Nobody but believers suffering from ‘middle class angst’ uses these sorts of trite and meaningless phrases nowadays. ‘Use the toilet, pull your pants down beforehand if necessary.’ Useless. We are a people of the book and the gospel is a message of Words – the message about the Word in fact. We are not mime artists where we all wander about doing food stuff and hope that people work it out. Most of the people in need on this estate have about 6 ‘care workers’ or ‘life coaches’ or ‘do-gooders’ hanging around them and none of them are Christian. So, you’re not going to win many for Christ by just hovering about doing ‘good stuff’. It needs to be about more than that.

Now, I understand the sentiment behind this (mis) quote – ‘let’s love people with word and deed’ but our job is to open our mouths and preach (in all its forms) the gospel. After all, how can they hear unless somebody preaches (Romans  10:14)? Aah but what about James 1:22-25 I hear you cry (if you are on the ball that is)? Faith without works is dead and all that. Chapter 2:14-18 and even clearer still. So, the argument goes, what we need is a balance of deed and word.

Let me suggest to you that this is the biblical case but the reality in our part of the mission field is that we are growing a generation of church going social workers who have no understanding about the full gospel at all. For them the gospel is all peace and love and harmony. God loves everybody and let’s keep quiet about sin and judgement and please don’t mention the ‘H’ word. Of course the gospel is good news but why are we so keen to brush the bad news under the carpet? ‘Jesus loves you’ is meaningless to a person. Good for him. ‘God wants to have  a relationship with you’ is worse. So what? I’ve got friends, thanks. People are sinners and need to be confronted with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Are they going to a lost eternity without Christ or not? Apparently that one is up for debate again (a bit more middle class angst). Should our starting point be about love? What about: ‘What do you think is wrong with the world? With you?’ People identify with that almost straight away. I think jumping in with the love and reconciliation bit is just confusing people. They are left with a false view of the gospel. They are left with a false view of their spiritual condition before an Almighty and Holy God whose settled wrath burns against sin. Sometimes it seems like the God being sold to people is desperate to be their friend.

I may do a little series on what the gospel is and isn’t.