The Gospel: Attractive or Repulsive?

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The Gospel: Attractive or Repulsive?

7 June 2017 Hits:4910

Last week I posted on Social Media some concerns I have about certain comments Christian leaders have made to the media about ethical and moral issues.  In my post I upheld everyone’s right to free speech as well as the right of people to disagree.  What followed was a lively discussion.

My question on Facebook though was this: “do these sorts of comments tend to alienate people from the Christian message?”  When Christian leaders speak out on ethical / moral issues does it draw people towards God or away from Him? Does it attract or repel?  These are vitally important questions for Christians and churches to answer.  What is the church’s FIRST and MOST IMPORTANT message to communicate to those who are not Christian, and when does our other messaging cloud our main message?

Let me put this another way:  Most churches (be they Catholic or Protestant or neither) hold to the doctrine of eternal hell: that those who don’t accept Jesus’ sacrificial death and eternal life-giving resurrection will be eternally separated from God and tormented forever, without the possibility of a second chance.  Will people go to hell for supporting abortion or euthanasia or same-sex marriage or will they go there for rejecting God’s salvation through Jesus?  In the light of your answer to that question, what is the FIRST and MOST IMPORTANT message the Church needs to communicate?

If you were to ask non-Christians what the church’s view of same-sex marriage is (or abortion, or Euthanasia or….) they’d be able to tell you: the church is against it.  If you asked those same people what it means to be a Christian they’d probably tell you it’s about being a good person and going to church.  What that reveals is that the Church collectively, and Christians individually, have largely failed to communicate the true gospel to people who so desperately need to hear it.

The apostle Paul summarises this wonderful message of good news in his second letter to the Corinthians. In writing to this church he reminds them of what happened when they first believed in Jesus, “God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).  The church’s FIRST and MOST IMPORTANT message to non-Christians is the message of reconciliation. Reconciliation is being restored to friendly terms – we were once enemies of God but because of Jesus we are reunited with Him.  The original Greek word Paul used meant to change money. In Jesus hostility is exchanged for friendship.

Why do Christian people (including pastors) so often count people’s sins?   Does this draw people towards God or away from Him? Sadly, I think it repels rather than attracts.   Any message that clouds the message of reconciliation compromises the gospel we are to uphold. God sent Jesus to save, forgive and bring people back into a relationship with Himself. That has got to be the message Australians hear from Australian Christians – including pastors.

It should be noted that Corinth was one of the most evil and sexually depraved cities of the first century, and the apostle certainly addressed the importance of purity in the church community, but he also made it clear that the church is not called to be the moral policeman to the broader society: “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world… What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10, 12-13).  What a very different message those outside the church get in Australia (and other Western nations) in this day and age.

Some of the people who commented on my Facebook thread reminded me of how important it is for people to repent.  I agree, repentance is a vital step in the salvation process, but it’s not the first step.  Many people aren’t ready to repent; they’re not even considering the Christian faith as an option, and a large reason for this is the messaging they get from the church.  In his letter to the church at Rome Paul wrote that it is God’s kindness, tolerance and patience that lead people to repentance.  That’s right, kindness, tolerance and patience not moral blustering and judgmental attitudes.  One attracts the other repels.

Others reminded me that Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultery to, “Go and sin no more” (John 8).  Indeed He did say that to her, after He’d dispensed of all her hypocritical accusers and chosen not to condemn her Himself.  As the only sinless man Jesus is the only person qualified to tell someone to leave his or her life of sin.  The rest of us should walk very gently with our fellow sinners.

This week another famous Christian brought a message of good news to the thousands gathered for the One Love Manchester concert.  He’s a young guy who hasn’t always lived up to the “Christian standard.” It seems to me that its taken a few years for him to wrestle with his faith and his fame, but two weeks ago Justin Bieber posted three words on his Instagram page, “I follow Jesus.”  To the massive crowd in Manchester he said, “God is good in the midst of the darkness. God is good in the midst of the evil.  God is in the midst no matter what’s happening in the world, God is in the midst, and He loves you and He’s here for you.”

Now THAT’S the sort of message Australians should be hearing from our well-known Christians. THAT’S the kind of message that has the ability to attract people TO Jesus rather than repel them from Him!

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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7 replies on “The Gospel: Attractive or Repulsive?”

Steve Bryarsays:

Good message Rob and if its any comfort to you, I am one person who has learnt a very important message about being ungracious toward those whose worldview is different to mine.

I need to repent of my ungracious attitude toward non-Christians as it is the Holy Spirit’s exclusive domain to convict someone of sin.

My role is to love those who God brings into my sphere of influence and to be His shining light in their lives.

Dansays:

“I agree, repentance is a vital step in the salvation process, but it’s not the first step”
Yes !

Alan Brennansays:

That’s true, so long as when a seeker is spoken to re: the need to lay down some things in repentance there is not a loud chorus of ‘you pharisee’.
I am sure even the words of Jesus will be as un popular as Leviticus soon.

Shungusays:

This is an issue I’ve been wrestling with for a while, Rob. I’m beginning to see how my own defensiveness as believer on moral issues betrays my lack of understanding about what it means to be saved.

The more I truly reflected on the joy of my salvation, the less I become consumed with moralising those around me & the more I’ve want to share the gospel.

My thoughts on these issues are that Christians are often too concerned about maintaining political power than reaching the people who don’t know God.

Rob Buckinghamsays:

You’re spot on Shungu and I’m so glad that you are inspired to share the true Gospel with people. It’s what everyone needs to hear. It’s the only way for them to be reconciled to a God who loves them so much He’d give His very life to save them.

Alan Brennansays:

fr.Brennan Manning ragamuffin gospel:All is grace:
Vulgar and Offensive Grace
My life is a witness to vulgar grace — a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wage as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party, no ifs, ands, or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief’s request — “Please, remember me” — and assures him, “You bet!”…This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try and find something or someone that it cannot cover. Grace is enough…

Sin and forgiveness and falling and getting back up and losing the pearl of great price in the couch cushions but then finding it again, and again, and again? Those are the stumbling steps to becoming Real, the only script that’s really worth following in this world or the one that’s coming. Some may be offended by this ragamuffin memoir, a tale told by quite possibly the repeat of all repeat prodigals. Some might even go so far as to call it ugly. But you see that doesn’t matter, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand…that yes, all is grace. It is enough. And it’s beautiful
fr.Brennan Manning
I intend to live my life ever mindful of Manning’s teaching. Here though he speaks little about his battle to live a Holy life, but speaks lots about God’s under girding saving and keeping power.
So stress less about failings always living for Him, in His grip.

Rachelsays:

I totally agree Rob. Thank you for a measured and loving take on this issue.

I also think some Christians who are against homosexuality could practice more empathy towards these people. On Facebook the other day, I saw a post from someone saying in no way were Court’s words derogatory. But for a straight person who doesn’t get vilified, rejected, told there is something wrong with them, bullied at school for their sexuality (list goes on…) it really isn’t their right to say whether it was or wasn’t.

I think love truly is the answer. Part of not judging to me also means being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, practicing and defending kindness and respect.

I like to think the church is at least getting better at these issues and posts like these are very encouraging 🙂

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