“It’s pointless shining the brass on a sinking ship“
That’s a sentiment that many evangelical Christians have applied to social justice, mercy ministry, racial reconciliation, transformation, upliftment, work and calling, environmental issues and a whole lot of other issues relating to this current world and its inhabitants. The ship is going down so don’t bother. The alternative? Well, just do evangelism, that’s all that really matters – in other words – get people into the life boats. Now based upon the many answers to the first post I must take issue with a philosophy of evangelism only. Surely Christians do not continue their existence in this world simply to evangelize the lost. I think we can see this if we draw an analogy from the previous post.
Many of you gave answers, some of which I might not necessarilly go with, but I’m not here to sort out your doctrine of personal godliness, rather I want to make an analogy. Consider the following answers that were posted:
“We are already righteous before the Lord if we are Christians because of the cross and if that is our status we should be living like God’s holy people, striving to live out our status.”
“God has brought you out of darkness into light: therefore live as children of the day.”
“We are to pursue godliness despite attaining it in this world because (1) it serves as a proof of the initial work God has begun in us; (2) God is in the business of redeeming us now, and while we await our final redemption/salvation, it has been inaugurated in a unique way on the cross and through the resurrection (and by the Spirit)”
“I am just trying to live out the reality of who I am, “in Christ”.”
“I am a child of God, therefore it is my desire to live as a true child, not so I can get a big reward, but purely because it is who I am through the work of Christ.”
“Because the grace of God teaches (instructs or trains) me (with the intent of forming proper habits of behaviour).’(Titus 2:11-12 with additional comments from Louw & Nida). Sometimes I put in very little effort at all, I’m simply being propelled by the good news concerning Jesus.”
There’s a common thread running through those comments. It is the idea of living in the light of future expectation – and its a certain expectation. Be holy because you are holy and you will be made holy. We’re very good at applying this to personal godliness and so, like me, you can probably count off hundreds of sermons that you’ve heard about personal praying, reading your bible and displaying the fruit of the Spirit. Be patient, be joyful, be kind etc. etc. The only time spirituality seems to become other person centered is when the sermon is on evangelism. I’m often left wondering if there isn’t anything more to the picture. Does being gospel-centered equate doing evangelism and personal godliness? Or is it more than that?
What if we were to explore our future expectation and discover that God has more in store than simply making us completely righteous in his sight and whisking us off to heaven? What if God’s plan rather was to institute an entire new creation that exists in complete submission to his lordship? What if this new creation was made certain by the cross? What if Colossians 1:20 really means what it says and that God is in the business of more than just redeeming individual souls? What if we’re leaving out large parts of the gospel?
Residence in the new creation is secured for those who trust in Christ (how that will eventually work out I have no idea), surely that must change how we deal with social justice, mercy ministry, racial reconcilliation, transformation, upliftment, work, enviromental issues and a whole lot of other issues relating to this current world and its inhabitants now. My guess is that as we do this there will be plenty, if not more, opportunities for evangelism and the public proclamation of the gospel which is the only thing by which men are saved as far I’m concerned. But we must do it if we are to live in light of our secured future expectation. We shine the brass in the current creation because we are secured residents of the coming new creation – and so shine we must.
What do you think? Is this a fair analogy?