Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Light in the Darkness

'For Jesus, everything is upside down. The best and greatest and most important are the ones who humble themselves, set their needs and desires aside, and selflessly serve others.

So what is a group of people living this way called? That's the church. The church doesn't exist for itself; it exists to serve the world. It is not ultimately about the church; it's about all the people that God wants to bless through the church. When the church loses sight of this, it loses its heart. This is especially true today in the world we live where so many people are hostile to the church, many for good reason. We reclaim the church as a blessing machine not only because that is what Jesus intended at the beginning but also because serving people is the only way their perceptions of church are ever going to change. This is why it is so toxic for the gospel when Christians picket and boycott and complain about how bad the world is. This behaviour doesn't help. It makes it worse. It isn't the kind of voice Jesus wants his followers to have in the world. Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn't as bright as it could be.' Rob Bell. Velvet Elvis - Repainting the Christian Faith p 165-166

I love this book. I love what it says and how it says it.

I think Rob Bell is continuing to say some important things since this book was published. I like what he has to say.

I've been thinking a lot lately about church, and the above quote makes sense to me in light of where I'm at. Again and again I hear churches saying how we should be telling people that they are sinners so that they can understand why the gospel is good news, otherwise it's just news. I heard a preach like this the other day. I spoke to someone not long ago who said a similar thing. Tell people that they are sinners, point it out, paint how bad the picture is, and then tell them the good news.

I just don't think that this is a healthy way of sharing the gospel.

Don't get me wrong, I believe Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. I believe we are sinners, but Jesus came to make us new people. But I don't believe we are called to preach at people that they/we are sinners. I believe we do not understand that we are sinners until we start following Jesus. Only when we start following Jesus and get to know and love him do we even begin to glimpse at the extent of the cross and why he went to the cross.
I also think we need to understand sin in light of the two greatest commandments, Love God and Love each other. Sin is that we haven't done these. A result of not loving God is that we don't properly love each other. So our actions reflect that. Too often we focus on sin being 'things' (stealing, lying etc) rather than it being about relationship. My relationship with God is not right - sin. My relationship with others is not right - sin. Somehow I don't see that my relationship with others isn't right until I get my relationship with God sorted.

If the church focuses on relationships where we love, love, love, then I believe we're heading in a better direction. If we are light into our community, showing people how good it is to know God and how good it is when we love each other the way God loves us, then I believe the light really will shine in the darkness and the darkness will begin to disappear.

But we have to be in the community being that light. Which means we have to get serious in our love for God and each other. No good me saying I love God, why don't you join me in getting to know this God, when I'm slagging off my Christian sister/brother. It also means we have to actually be where the people are. But not in some strange, ulterior motive. Simply being with people. Living life as a light of Jesus. The light will shine and people will ask 'why so bright?'

We just love everyone because we love everyone. No reason, no motive. Just love.

1 comment:

Rob Tervet said...

Hi Joe, love the blog! Hope you and the family are well. Well I've been enjoying reading your posts for a little while now and thought I might actually comment. This post interested me because I too have been thinking through this issue recently. Infact not long ago I did a sermon which addressed it.
Just a few thoughts for now. You say "I don't believe we are called to preach at people that they/we are sinners. I believe we do not understand that we are sinners until we start following Jesus."

I think there are a number of problems with taking this view. Namely the teaching ministry of Jesus. Jesus taught clearly about human sin, hell, and the sharp contrast of being in or out in his kingdom. (It is an interesting study looking through the contrasts he uses in the gospel of John). What is interesting about the teachings of Jesus is how he combined impossibly high moral standards, clear teaching on human sin with radically inclusive community. Perhaps it is this last point which needs to be heard more in evangelical churches?

One other thought for now. I think another problem with this view is the whole issue of repentance. Cleary repentance is a teaching theme to unbelievers for John the baptist, Jesus, Paul and Peter. You said "I believe we do not understand that we are sinners until we start following Jesus". For Peter in Acts 3 he sees repentance as a start point. Can we follow Jesus without doing a U turn? Am I understanding what you are saying here?

I think you are really on to something when you discuss sin within the context of the commands to "love". Keep the posts coming!