At the heart of the Gospel is the radical unveiling of God’s missional heart towards a lost humanity.
For many years the evangelical Church has wrestled with fleshing out how we share this good news with the world.
The gospel story begins with Jesus, taking on our flesh and dwelling among us. As the Message version of the Bible puts it, “The Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood” (John 1:14). For many years the evangelical Church has wrestled with fleshing out how we share this good news with the world. This question undoubtedly cuts to the core of our faith, but in a post-truth society, where all truth claims are contested, how we convey what we know has never been more important.
I believe a deeply profound way of engaging with our culture is through a renewed commitment to living out the gospel with radical obedience, in full view of Christ’s incarnation.
So often in Church we are solely fixated with right thinking. Often, this comes at the expense of internalising and accepting Jesus’ invitation into a new way of living.
Many of us will never be called to overseas missions, but we are all called to the mission of our towns, cities and communities.
Jesus lived out of radical obedience to the Father. Jesus himself said, “I only do what I see my Father doing” (John 5:19). In this he revealed how we should be fully human in the world: obedience. Obedience is crucial because it means we give God something we’re often reluctant to, our trust. The obedience of Christ led him to the cross, it moved him into Samaria where he engaged with the enemies of Israel, and it took him into the house of Zacchaeus to fellowship with the despised and rejected. Obedience often moves us into places of discomfort, suffering and trials, but it also moves us into true peace, joy and righteousness.
A friend once said to me that the best missionaries are the most incarnational. By this he meant, when we truly love our neighbours, our work colleagues and our family, we follow Christ’s example of putting on a new humanity and embodying a different story of hope, truth and kindness. Christ is always inviting us to lay aside many of the privileges and rights that we cling to and move into different spheres of society to live out the gospel. Many of us will never be called to overseas missions, but we are all called to the mission of our towns, cities and communities.
How do we cultivate honest, meaningful relationships in an age of radical individualism?
Living out the gospel through obedience is the work of a lifetime. Eugene Peterson phrases it as a “long obedience in the same direction”. But there are some ways we can begin this journey. For example, we may be moved to give ourselves wholeheartedly to our communities, seeking to bring God’s truth and freedom to whatever chains have bound people for years. This can involve becoming more present to the needs in your village, town or city, perhaps through volunteering with a charitable organisation such as a local food bank. Living out the gospel among the poor is what Jesus embodied here on earth, but whatever the needs of your community are, you can trust that there will be opportunities for you to serve and share Jesus where you are.
How do we live present to pain and injustice? How do we walk out hope in the midst of despair? How do we cultivate honest, meaningful relationships in an age of radical individualism? Ultimately, how are we ‘Emmanuel’, God with us, in our communities today?
These are the questions to contemplate as we enter this New Year. How we respond in word and deed to Christ’s incarnation is the most pertinent question of our time. The Apostle John encourages us to love in both word and deed (1 John 3:18). Often, it can be easy to speak about Jesus without a total commitment to living out his message. So in this New Year, may we be moved to move. May we be challenged to challenge. And may we be loved into loving.