Sunday, April 14, 2013

Love and Goodness

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

This verse from Matthew 28 is the verse that many evangelical Christians base their ministry on: making disciples of everyone and baptizing them, embracing the idea of washing them of their sins. However, this morning I heard a sermon called "Manifesting the Goodness of God" by at The Rock Church of Asheville that really put the idea of evangelism and the spreading of the Gospel into perspective. It was based off of the apostle Paul's words in his letter to the Romans: "I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent in knowledge and competent to instruct one another...I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done--by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit... It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it is written:
'Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.'"
(Romans 15:14-21)

Paul did not force the Gospel on anyone, rather he let God's goodness radiate through his words and actions. I know I say it a lot, but I don't think I can advocate it enough: the best way to reach people is through simple love and hospitality. It is, believe it or not, possible to manifest Christ without deliberately doing so. Many Christians make the mistake of over-Christianizing themselves. Sounds weird, and you're probably offended right now (which would kind of prove exactly what I'm trying to say)...just bear with me.
Take, for instance, the example of a simple dinner party or a neighborhood barbecue. I can speak from experience, having helped my family plan many such a party. Christian music pouring through the stereo, not a drop of alcohol in sight--most of you know what I'm talking about. Everything is catered to the host's taste. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing Christian music or sobriety, I fully advocate both. However, hospitality is about the guest...this is probably news to a lot of people.
People are much easier to reach in an atmosphere in which they feel comfortable.
In the words of Ian Green, our homes ought to be fishing boats rather than castles. We should be more interested in the person and soul that we're reaching than in the words we plan to use to pour into them. Become a friend. Use love to build a bridge into someone's life, and the draw toward the Gospel will follow as you love them and consequently manifest God's love and goodness.

But seriously, think about it. You can deny it all you want, but it's impossible to deny that the simplest things can turn everything around for any person at any given time. It's part of who we are; we're programmed to fall in love with the most simple forms of love and beauty, and I wholeheartedly believe that it's because God shows himself in the simplest ways. He works in simplicity. In fact, I think God's life epitomizes simplicity: he loves us unconditionally. We all know that, and we ought to strive for that kind of love: love without restraint and love without judgment.