Thursday, July 7, 2016

Christ-like Compassion Keeps the Gospel Central

 (It's been a little over a year since I first posted this article, and I think this message is just as relevant now, even more so. So I want to share it again for those who missed it the first time around.)

People tend to skirt around important questions. The more crucial and foundational something is, the less comfortable we are talking about it. It's one of the consequences of the superficial and selective kind of "tolerance" promoted by modern society.

And here was my old friend from college, someone I continue to admire and respect, telling me about a ministry of his that I had very big doubts about. Trying to cut to the root issue, I asked him, "Would you say that the ministry is gospel-centered? Does everything you do point people back to Jesus Christ, what He did on the cross, and what it means to live for His kingdom?"

He paused, unsure of what to say. "Well, the ministry is really more about healing...." I knew where this was going, and it was not good.

Taking the Gospel for Granted

A very troubling trend among Filipino Evangelicals is our taking for granted the foundational truths of Christianity. We are, by-and-large, "distracted" from God's purposes. One might even call it "insubordination".

Insubordination happens when soldiers ignore their commanding officer's orders. Insubordination is when servants start living as if they have no master.

Insubordination is what Christians do when we minimize or ignore our Lord's teachings and directives so we can go do our own thing. What does this look like today? Christians join hands with representatives of false churches to carry out 'ministry' in the name of Jesus Christ, but at what cost? For the sake of peace many are agreeing to minimize the gospel of Christ.

Often, this is done in the name of love. Love for people who have different convictions than we do. Love for those who have for a long time been outside the reach of churches.

This is an admirable desire. As beings made in the image of God, we should recognize the value of human life. As fallen creatures in a fallen world, we can sympathize with those who are suffering the consequences of sin. As sinners redeemed only by the grace of God, we should be quick to extend grace to those who are still enslaved to sin. It's right for us, as representatives of Christ, to want to alleviate all forms of human suffering.

Identifying People's Greatest Need

But while suffering is a very real problem, it is not people's main problem, because pleasure and comfort aren't God's main purpose for us. He made us to glorify and enjoy Him (Isa 43:7; Rom 11:36). That's our purpose for existence, the greatest goal that we can aspire to. So whatever undermines this purpose is our main problem.

According to the Bible, that problem is sin. Sin, in essence, is idolatry, because it is taking the glory and allegiance that is due God and giving it to something or someone else. As God says in Jeremiah 2:13,
my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
The only solution to this is the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It's the only thing that can restore wayward sinners to a right relationship with God.

In short, humanity's biggest problem is sin not suffering. So the best news we could receive is to be restored to a right relationship with God, not to live a life of comfort and self-fulfillment. This is why we must never take the gospel for granted. Because the moment we do, we're letting go of the only true hope for a fallen world.

It's a shame when those who claim the name "Christian" try to meet people's temporary needs but not their eternal needs. A truly Christ-like compassion doesn't prioritize people's felt needs over God's glory. Why not? Because that would dishonor the very Christ whom we claim to represent and deprive people of the gospel that alone can save.

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