The only purpose of the gospel is to reconcile people to God and to each other. A gospel that doesn’t reconcile is not a Christian gospel at all. But in America, it seems as if we don’t believe that. We don’t really believe that the proof of our discipleship is that we love one another (see John 13:35). No, we think the proof is in numbers … Even if our “converts” continue to hate each other, even if they will not worship with their brothers and sisters in Christ, we point to their “conversion” as evidence of the gospel’s success. We have substituted a gospel of church growth for a gospel of reconciliation.

– John Perkins, from “With Justice for All”

I will freely admit to ‘lifting’ the above quotation directly from the God’s Politics Blog (http://www.beliefnet.com/blogs/godspolitics/) hosted by Jim Wallis and Sojourners. As I think you all might be aware, I am not above ‘stealing’ good ideas if they help in proclaiming the radical grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mr. Perkins, in my view, hits the nail on the head when identifying reconciliation and the chief work of the gospel. In fact it sounds very much like (almost verbatim) to the Episcopal Church’s own view on what is the Mission of the Church.

Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to
unity with God and each other in Christ.

I sometimes get in trouble when I critique the ‘Church Growth’ movement of the 1990’s. Don’t get me wrong, I would always like for there to be more folks in Church. What I will challenge is that the notion that any growth is good growth. After all the work of the gospel is to bring folks to Christ, so what could be wrong with more people in Church? The answer, I believe, lies in what sort of fruit shows up on the tree. I am deeply troubled by any community that proclaims to have such a clear vision of God’s heart and mind so as to pronounce that there are those who ‘don’t belong’ in the family. That goes for all faith communities–Churches, Mosques, Synagogues—take your pick.

At the end of the day, all of the three Abrahamic Religions (those claiming Abraham as a common ancestor)—Judaism, Islam and Christianity—seek to faithfully respond to a God whose chief characteristic is love. How then can we ever justify any ‘violent’ act in the name of a loving God? You should know that there are a great many plausible answers to that. I believe that none of them faithfully captures the essence of God, that is reconciliation.

To love those with whom we disagree is hard. But it is the Gospel. To love those who don’t look like us can be hard. But it is the Gospel. To love those who experience God in a different way than us is hard. But it is the Gospel. As the heading of this post indicates, the Gospel is hard, but it is simple. The commitment to living Gospel truth is costly, but it is worth it. Maybe it can be summed up like this, “The Gospel is loving when loving seems to be the hardest response to the realities we face”.

Perkins is right. John’s gospel is right. It’s all about reconciliation and that is hard!!

The core message of Christianity is simple. Bono of U2, puts it like this, ““I love the bit when Christ asked for his greatest hits and he says, ‘OK, love God, and love your neighbours as yourself.’ Christianity is not complicated, that’s what it is.”

With a deep and radical commitment to that sort of simple love that is among the hardest things to do in the world, the love of Jesus and the power of God will reconcile the world and bring about the healing of the broken nature of human relationships on every level.

Let’s start in the Church. Let’s show the world that we can love in disagreement and seek ‘a more excellent way’ of being (see 1 Cor 12:31-13).

Quoting the first letter of John let this sentiment be our guide as we simply do the hard work of the Gospel,

“Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”

Warren +


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