Monday, April 2, 2012

An Activist Gospel-B. Bales

The Big Story Gospel presentation uses four circles to tell the gospel story.  The presentation begins by drawing a broken world, and asking the listener whether or not they see the brokenness of the world.  The conclusion drawn from brokenness is that there must have been something better because we ache for it. A second circle is drawn which represents God’s perfect creation which was designed that we might have a relationship with Him.  The question is then asked as to how the world became so messed up.  The presenter concludes that we took control of the world out of selfishness and ruined it.  Because of sin, we broke our relationship with God, and we commit many evil actions because once we live selfishly then it becomes easy to hurt others and live bad lives.  The presenter states that we corrupted the world, but God’s love for us demands that He save us from our evil.  God sent His Son to lead a resistance movement against selfishness and evil, and to show us how to live our lives correctly.  We ought to follow Jesus in His fight against evil by using the power He has given us.  On the cross, Jesus died the death we deserved, and was resurrected that death might not have the victory.  Christ has allowed for us to form a community full of love, peace, and justice.  Our response to Jesus should be to admit our sin and turn from it, trust that Jesus’s death justifies us, receive the life which Jesus gave through the resurrection, and follow Jesus while giving Him control of our lives.  With a correct response, our relationship with God will be restored.  We, as followers of Jesus, join His resistance movement to restore the world, and we ought to live more and more like Jesus.  We should now fight with Christ against evil and restore the systems of the world back into God’s goodness and original design.
The problem with the Big Story Gospel presentation is not necessarily what it leaves out but what it focuses on.  The beginning and the end of the presentation revolves around a resistance movement to effect change in the world for the better, and because of this, it has a certain attractiveness to it.  Countless songs and movies of popular culture seek to push culture toward better things.  The people of today love to join societies and groups which like to solve problems and fight issues, and Big Story Gospel presentation appeals to our desires for change and for power to effect change.  The question should be asked as to what would happen to the Big Story Gospel if our culture violently opposed “change culture” movements.  The gospel of “go change the world for the better” might become less of an acceptable and interesting thing to do, and more of difficult job which takes the strongest and most dedicated servants of Christ to achieve.
In the Big Story Gospel presentation, the main focus of our sin and our need for Christ is our relationship with God.  We broke the relationship, and as a result, we live in an evil world.  Christ has come to save us from our evil world, and help us make a new one, good and clean.  In Counterfeit Gospels, Trevin Wax hits the nail on the head when he writes that the people of Christ’s day wanted Him to become a political leader of this world; the Jews wanted Jesus to lead them on a revolt against Roman oppression.  Interestingly, Christ took no part in their schemes; rather, He focuses on the kingdom which is to come (177-179).   Another contrast between someone who wants to the fight evils of the world and Jesus Christ Himself is that Jesus Christ sought out the broken and evil people of this world and called them to repentance.  The tendency of the activist who wants to fight evil is to attack the people who do it that they might better the world, but Christ came to save people, not the world.  Of course, Christ Jesus will come again as a warrior king, crushing all who oppose Him, but His first coming was to reconcile man to God through the atonement of our sins.
There also appears to be too much focus on what we do and less on what Christ has already done.  Accordingly, the word “we” is constantly used while the name of Christ is used less.  Interestingly, the name of Jesus is the predominantly used name.  The subtle loss of the implications of the name Christ, in terms of Him as our savior, reveals the distortedness of the Big Story Gospel presentation.  We like having Jesus as our teacher, role model, or cheerleader, but we don’t like him as our Savior who died because of our sin.  We like Jesus, a baby in a manger come to teach us, but we don’t like a Christ on a cross beaten and dying for us.  We want to keep a sense of power in our lives; Christ, as a suffering servant on our behalf, would force us into unwanted humility and debt.  Accordingly, Trevin Wax writes that a counterfeit “activist gospel” will place too much focus on what we do for the gospel rather than on what Christ has already done (181).  The power of the “activist gospel” is in what people do for it while the power of the gospel of Christ is what it does for people.  Essentially, the Big Story Gospel presentation contains all those key words and facets which should be expected in a gospel presentation, but it places the focus in all the wrong areas.  The presentation could be compared to a burger that has all the right ingredients and toppings which could make a great burger, but its oversized buns prevent the rest of the burger from even being tasted.

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