In some of the groups that I associate with Evangelicalism is used as a pejorative term. Some of these folks would consider themselves Christians, but I find it very interesting they are so negative when it comes to the evangel. I find myself thinking don’t they believe in the “good news?” I have found myself thinking about this almost every day now. I think about this in light of my thoughts about authentic and servant leadership; I find myself thinking about this as I grapple with racism in this country; and I wrestle with this as I think about my own personal problems in my family; as I worry about the eternal residency of my children and grand children. However, I do think this agonizing is a good thing. It tells me God’s Spirit is at work in my heart. So, I raise a couple of questions this morning, what is the answer to all of this hate in the world today? We have just finished Christmas, and every year it seems to be more secular every year. So are we missing the point, are we losing something as we mature?
What is Evangelicalism? One definition that I found states that “Evangelicalism is a worldwide movement within Protestantism, maintaining that the essence of the gospel consists in the doctrine of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement.” I have no argument with this definition, nor do I see any need to use the term as something negative.
The following is from the Evangelical Alliance:
We’re evangelical. We’re passionate: about God, about the Church and about the Bible.
We’re evangelical. We’ve decided to live our lives with Jesus –the saviour of the world and son of God –at the centre.
We’re evangelical. We humbly and lovingly believe that the best thing for our families, friends, neighbours, nation and world is that they live their lives with Jesus too.
We’re evangelical. We believe that God is with us and empowers us by His Spirit. We’re evangelical. We love the Bible. It bears witness to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. It invites us into the story of God and the world. It guides us in how we live our lives and has so much to say about what it is to be human and how we should do life together: with God and with each other.
We’re evangelical. So we just can’t keep quiet about it.
Again, I see no problem with this! This is a straight forward understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. So where does the problem lie? Some of it is related to conservative politics, and the association of Evangelicalism with Republicanism, even more it is related to the debate between pro-choice and pro-life and the societal conversation about being Gay. On other words, the culture war, which I do think the Church is losing by not responding to these modern day issues in a manner that Jesus would respond.
Philip Yancey does an excellent job reflecting on our current situation is his new book, “Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News.” I have just started it and have found it refreshing. I have also found it has reinforced the conclusions I have come to as I have pondered the many subjects mentioned above.
Yancey describes the great divide between non-Evangelicals and Evangelicals with a story. “I got a taste of the passionate feelings behind the culture wars when I posted a quote from the late Andy Rooney on my Facebook site.” He attributes to Rooney the following, “I’ve decide I’m against abortion. I think it is murder. But I have a dilemma in that I much prefer the pro-choice people to the pro-life people.” Yancey received many responses to this posting, which represented both sides of the fence. However, what I would like to focus on is what Yancey learned. “In short, the responses underscored Andy Rooney’s point. Would I want to eat dinner with the flame-throwers who posted comments on my site? I replied [to the flame-throwers] that the issue is not whether I agree with someone but rather how I treat someone with whom I profoundly disagree. We Christians are called to use the weapons of grace, which means treating even our opponents with love and respect.”
So what is the answer to being an authentic servant leader; to confronting institutionalized systematic racism; the eternal residency of my family, and the issues associated with LGBT? I think is goes back to what I learned very early in my life as a Christian. If I am to be an accurate and effective evangelist in this day and age, I need to live in, through, and for Jesus Christ. If I am to be an authentic servant leader He can be that in me, and help me be it in the world that I move within. If I want to impact my family then it must be through love and not judge. For me to love as Christ has love means I need to be close to Him. And if I am going to confront racism as I see it, then I will need the strength that can only come from walking with Jesus in this life. And if I am going to make sense of the LGBT issues in our society today I need to see and tell people about this guy, Jesus, that can love people the way they need to be loved.
Many years ago the Church used to tell people they had a God shaped void in their lives that they were seeking to fill the void with sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. Yancey saw something similar to this in a meeting with Henri Nouwen years ago. In his meeting with Nouwen, Yancey learned that Nouwen had just returned from San Francisco where he had spent time visiting AIDS patients. This was when AIDS was a sure death sentence. After this experience, Nouwen relearned what we used to say so long ago. “Nouwen went on to say that his prayers changed after that week. As he listened to accounts of promiscuity and addiction and self-destructive behavior, he heard hints of a thirst for love that had never been quenched. From then on he prayed, God, help me to see others not as my enemies or as ungodly but rather as thirsty people.”
May that be our prayers in this New Year, I know it will be mine.
And that is my thought for the day! With the help of Philip Yancey.