“You’ll have eternal life!”
“You’ll have your best life now!”
“God is just waiting to bless you with [insert covetous desire here]!”
“Everything in your life will be better!”
“Every mistake you ever made will be erased!”
“You’ll get a mansion! A robe! A crown!”
“You’ll be healed!”
I could go on listing promise after promise of made by evangelists. Some are valid promises, some are not, but that’s not really the issue I want to tackle. Rather, did you notice what they all have in common? “You.” Now, the Gospel is personal, so on one level, it’s fine. However, I do think that we Christians need to re-examine our evangelistic approach—and maybe some of our deepest tenets concerning salvation itself, because in the end, even salvation is not [just] about you.
Grace is deeper than avoiding hell.
“If you died tonight, would you know for sure that you would be going to heaven?” This is the way many an evangelizer, ages past and present, has started conversations about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And in truth, it is a question every man and woman should ask themselves–but not the only question. Many times I’ve heard this question asked, and many times I’ve heard the evangelizer follow up with other questions like, “Have you ever sinned?” and, “Did you know that one sin will send you to hell?” The conversation then usually heads in a direction of why a person is need of a savior, and how he/she can have their sins forgiven so they can go to heaven. And that is the crux of a misunderstanding (or “undercomprehension”, if I may coin such a term). Salvation and grace are more comprehensive than merely avoiding an eternity in Hell.
“All this is from 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 men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” II Corinthians 5:18-19 (NIV)
Salvation is about a relationship lost being restored, not just a debt being paid. Through Christ and through the message of salvation God is calling people home, to Himself. He does not just seek to forgive you for whatever wrongdoing you may have done, but he wants to love you, equip you, and see you live a life that is abundant in faith, hope, and love…and he wants to bless you not as a cosmic bellhop, but as your loving Father, for that is who He really is. As Christians, we need to make sure that we are not sharing a self-centered, “get out of jail free” salvation that is empty of the true purpose of Christ’s sacrifice: reconciliation of a family torn apart by sin. And, it seems to me anyway, that this is a message with broad appeal in a society of broken homes, families, marriages, wars, and messed up relationships of every sort. Our God is the God of reconciliation and peace restored.
Next: It’s Not About You (3.2): “If You Don’t Like Change, You’re In For A Bumpy Ride.”