Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reflections on Safety

I'm sitting in my office in the church, with air conditioning. I sit here getting ready to lead a Bible study tonight with students who are fellow Christians. I live in a country where my faith is no secret, in fact our website boldly proclaims who we are. But now I write an entry about preaching an unsafe Gospel in an unsafe world.

Why is the message we preach unsafe? Because it has to deal with several realities that we are not comfortable with. We must proclaim a message that teaches the reality that mankind is in sin and cannot do anything to warrant good or save himself. It must also preach a message that God is holy, just, and demands punishment for sin, and that punishment is death. It also must be a message that deals with a bloody cross where God the Father unleashes His full wrath on His Beloved Son. It also is a message that teaches the idea of, as my pastor calls it, uncomfortable grace; this idea that salvation can be given to the worst of offenders and that the worst offense against God or man can be covered by the blood of Christ and stricken from the records of heaven.

The reasons for this message being unsafe are numerous and lengthy to explain. But suffice it to be summed up in this simple message: We preach a message that is not about us at all, but all about God. We as people are not the center of the story, we are simply a part of the great tapestry of the Triune God. Why is this not comfortable? Because our culture teaches us that self is the center of existence and that self is the determiner and agent of truth. When you begin proclaiming a message that is not centered on people but on something external, something outside the realm of our understanding, it will create enemies, especially when you tell those people that they are outside the fold of a relationship with that something, namely God.

The results of this unsafe message can be seen around the world. It's been said that the number of martyrs in the last 100 years is greater than in the previous 19 centuries since Stephen was stoned under the approval of a man named Saul. Christians around the world face death on a daily basis, I think of two men whose story I read online a couple months ago and who I have heard nothing of since then. I can only assume they met their fate at the hands of their captors, and my prayers are with their families and especially their children. The Gospel is a confrontational message, it is not safe. Safe is not a Christian theme, because Jesus said He would divide families, split mother and daughter, brother and brother.

The Gospel is a radical message because it flies in the face of everything we are taught in a self-centered society that puts all the emphasis on YOU. The Gospel puts all the emphasis on HIM, and out of that emphasis comes the beautiful picture of restored fellowship between us and Him. The Gospel is not safe, but keep preaching it. Derek Webb talks about Jesus Himself not being safe, comparing Him (as Lewis did) with Aslan the roaring lion from Narnia. He is certainly not safe, Beaver says, but he is good.

Safe preaching is never biblical preaching. If a minister stands in the pulpit and never faces hardship for his preaching, he is not preaching from the Bible. In America our comfort and societal acceptance of Christianity is in its waning days, and soon it will be very clear who is a true Disciple and who is merely chaff in the church. I heard a phrase from Dr. Mohler, it has resounded in my mind, "embrace the danger." Our comfort in America is to our downfall. We need to be about preaching an unsafe message, because that is what our Lord commanded us.


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