Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Haiti Missions Trip Recap 02: Spreading the Word
Why didn't Jesus just come as an adult and go straight to the cross? Wouldn't that still have been an act of supreme love? In Acts 3, we find Peter and John in the Temple, healing a man who was lame. Acts 19:11-12 tells us that people who merely came in contact with Paul's handkerchiefs and aprons were cured. Surely these are sufficient for demonstrating to the world the One Who is Yahweh-Rapha, "the Lord Who heals you". After all, didn't St. Francis of Assisi give us those inspiring words, "Preach the gospel everywhere and use words if necessary"?
I started thinking about these things after our 2nd work day in Lambi Village. It was then that I had several conversations with village residents who said that they were Christians but didn't own a Bible. I shared my concern with one of the pastors on the team who agreed that we should definitely be looking to do both: provide practical support that meets a felt need AND distribute Bibles while ministering God's word to persons at every opportunity that we are able to do so.
The leaves change colors in autumn, but hearts seem to bud and open like flowers in spring. Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there appears to be an increase in active expressions of generosity, kindness, hospitality, and cheer. I certainly welcome that kind of shift, but I wonder: is it Christian, or is it cultural? After all, Christians aren't the only ones who participate in the kind of charitable giving and volunteering that we have become accustomed to during the holiday season. The truth is, many have come to accept the idea that in such cases, "actions speak louder than words".
But I beg to differ.
Let's look back at the questions we started with. If we saw Jesus on the cross, never having taught/preached as He did. How would we know Who He really was? Is He a martyr, criminal, or the Son of God? Without His teaching, we would have never guessed at the last option. Were Peter, John, and Paul magicians? Were they physicians? Were they Greek gods manifested in the flesh or were they humble servants of Jesus, the dead man Who came back to life, that were commissioned to continue His work in His name? Without their teachings/writings, we wouldn't have assumed that option either. And something else is true: without their words, none of them would have suffered the persecution that they had to endure.
Jesus wasn't put to death because He healed lepers, gave widows back their dead sons, or fed thousands on a five loaves of bread and two fish. Peter wasn't imprisoned for making a lame man dance. The mobs didn't stone Paul, attempting to kill him because he freed a slave girl from her demon possession. All these good works were welcomed and the men through whom God performed them would have been equally received if it were not for the gospel of God's work in Christ and it's life-changing power through the Holy Spirit. The miraculous and merciful actions of Jesus and the early church were not alone, but accompanied by a message that was offensive to most of their hearers. They preached it anyway, and if we don't how can we be counted as faithful?
"Faith comes by seeing, and seeing by watching the things I do without mentioning the name of the one who loves me". Dear reader, if you are one of the many who would say, "I can do evangelism [which is defined as proclaiming the gospel] by doing good deeds and honor God without communicating a single word", I would ask you to find the "verse" quoted above in the Bible. Until you show me that, I'll believe this one: "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
Again, it's Christmas time. Let's be zealous for the good works that accompany the season. It is certainly true that God has called us--even fashioned us for such things. But as we do the works, woe unto us if we preach not the gospel. Why would we do good works without a mention of our Father in heaven and specifically make known that our works are done to honor JESUS? Have we chosen to conform to the world out of fear for their rebuke when we should have considered it God's reward to suffer for the gospel's sake? Christian courage demands better of us. For all that He's given us and sacrificed, wouldn't it be good to give Him the gift of a bold, wise, and specifically gospel-centered witness at this blessed time of year?