The following are unfinished thoughts:
I’m afraid there is a great big hole in our understanding of this thing we call the “Gospel.”
I’m afraid our churches and ministries are at least partially failing in their jobs to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).
I’m afraid our failure is making Jesus appear weak and irrelevant.
If the average Christian were asked what the gospel is, they’d probably say something along the lines of: “We’re all sinners, and the gospel is that God sent Jesus to die in our place so that we can be forgiven and go to heaven.”
Whoop-de-doo. So. What.
I’m struggling with a serious porn addiction. What’s that got to do with me?
My uncle has been sexually abusing me for years. What’s that got to do with me?
I get bullied at school, so I’ve been cutting myself to block out the emotional pain. What’s that got to do with me?
I think I’m fat, so I’ve been making myself throw up after every meal for months. What’s that got to do with me?
I’m a 15 year old guy and I think I’m gay. What’s that got to do with me?
My boyfriend wants to have sex with me, and I love him, so I think I’m going to say yes. What’s that got to do with me?
My parents are getting a divorce and I don’t want to have to choose sides between them. What’s that got to do with me?
My best friend just committed suicide. What’s that got to do with me?
My husband just lost his job and is drinking heavily to forget his problems. What’s that got to do with me?
I come from a rich family and have everything I could want, but am still not happy. What’s that got to do with me?
…I could go on and on and on. I’m willing to bet that most “Christians” wouldn’t have any idea how to respond if they came across situations like the above (in many of those situations, I’d probably be clueless as well). But here’s the thing: These are the real life situations that most people face.
- 70% of men my age visit porn websites every month
- Roughly 25% of girls and 16% of boys are sexually abused; over 90% of them knew their abusers
- About 1 in 5 teenagers self-harm in some way
- Roughly 1 in 10 teenage girls have some form of eating disorder
The statistics all back up the facts that it is a grim, messy, painful world we live in. But the problem is, we as Christians seem to either be ridiculously naive or just plain not care about the harsh reality of life in this fallen world.
In Matthew 9, Mark 2, and Luke 5, the same story of Jesus shows up. Jesus is hanging out with his tax collector buddies and other well known “sinners” of the time. If you’re unaware, tax collectors weren’t exactly fan favorites with the rest of the Jews in those times; tax collectors were typically Jews who betrayed their countrymen to work for the hated Roman Empire, charging hefty taxes to other Jews and pocketing anything extra they could collect for themselves. “Sinners” was a general term of derision by the Jews, used to refer to people who had reputations of being given to certain vices – it could mean known drunks, hookers, gamblers, etc. All in all, Jesus wasn’t exactly hanging out with the Jewish A-listers, and the “righteous” Jewish leaders were pretty upset about it. They started grumbling about it, and Jesus responded saying,
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32 ESV)
Jesus didn’t fit into the religious folks’ preconceived notions about how he should act or who he should spend time with. He went out and found those who were hated and had bad reputations; those who were sneered at and avoided; those who were overlooked and uncared for.
Jesus brought hope into those situations – hope to the messed up, struggling, sin-stained, desperate people of his time.
So why don’t we – his followers – know how to do that today?
Is it that the gospel can’t really speak to people in those situations? Is it that we’re afraid? Is it that we don’t care about people’s physical situations, as long as they “pray the prayer” and we can check them off as “converts?” Is it that we just don’t know how?
These are things we have to talk about.
We need to open our eyes; find the hurting, broken, desperate people (read that as everyone around us); roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. We’ve got to learn how to apply the gospel to real-life situations, and we have got to stop pretending like life is all rosy and great. It’s not. It’s hard. It sucks, pretty majorly a lot of the time. Our world is broken, and if we don’t acknowledge that (in practice, not just in theory), we’ll never be able to rightly show how Christ is the answer.