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The work of the Gospel
“Do we really need to be concerned that people hear about Jesus? What difference does Jesus make?”
Last week was my final staff retreat as Executive Director of PFF (Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship). After the retreat, one of our staff members was telling a group of us about her recent meeting with a mission committee. She had shared with the committee about the focus of PFF on helping Presbyterians be part of what God is doing in taking the gospel to those who have no church in their own language and culture. A couple of committee members responded with the questions above. Our staff member could have answered those questions on several levels. After all, all the answers boil down to the reality that the coming of Jesus is good news (the literal meaning of the word gospel!). It’s good news for people who are trapped in sin and who are separated from God.
Jesus has come to be the gate, the light of the world, and the way, truth and life, among many other things. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, ruling over all creation. All people are called to come to Him for life and one day every knee will bow to Him. We are privileged to know, love, and serve Him, and to share the good news of access to the Father through Him with everyone. But God led her to answer the committee members on another level. She recounted to them an encounter a Presbyterian pastor had with members of a remote tribe in Mexico, who had come to faith in Jesus through work partially supported by this pastor’s church. He asked these people, “What difference does Jesus make in your lives? Was it worth leaving some of your former ways to follow Jesus?” He was expecting them to say something like they now have peace, or they now know their sins are forgiven. But the women immediately answered,
“Our husbands no longer beat us!”
In other words, the coming of Jesus into their lives has had implications that go beyond opening the way to God. They were grateful to know God through Jesus, but their immediate response was gratitude for the transformation that had come in their marriage relationships! Jesus’coming is good news because He brings transformation in every realm of life. People’s relationships with God and with each other are renewed and restored as the Holy Spirit begins to work in them. Shouldn’t we be concerned that everyone has the opportunity to know Jesus and to experience transformation in Him?
A matter of justice
As those of us listening to the staff member reflected on this true story, we realized giving people the opportunity to know Jesus is, from one perspective, a matter of eternal significance related to people’s eternal destiny. At the same time, from another perspective, it’s a matter of justice. How can we not be concerned that everyone have the opportunity for transformation of life here and now? Who are we to decide that some people deserve to know good news, but others don’t? Who are we to say that our enemies (or perceived enemies) shouldn’t know this good news and be transformed? How can anyone say that people whom they perceive to be living happy lives in blissful ignorance of Jesus, shouldn’t be bothered by Christians who want “to change them?” Every culture has issues related to sinful patterns. Shouldn’t everyone have the opportunity to have their husbands stop beating them—or whatever else their issues may be? The coming of Jesus is good news, and everyone deserves to know about the possibility of embracing Him, with all that He brings. It’s a matter of eternal significance, and it’s a matter of justice here and now. By God’s grace we have received this good news—shouldn’t others have this opportunity, too? Is your church a part of seeing that happen? Shouldn’t it be?