A Means to an End?
“I’m just afraid that we would simply be feeding the kids, and the true gospel wouldn’t be preached”
Now to be fair, I could comfortably say that this sentence, or something to its effect, would be almost word for word what would have come out of my mouth no more than 3 years ago. And legitimately so. We certainly would not want to merely engage in an exercise of feeding impoverished kids and not allow for the gospel to be preached to them. Right?
But something has changed in my understanding of the gospel.
More specifically, something has changed in my understanding of the person of Jesus. And because of this, everything has changed in my understanding of how my life is supposed to be lived out.
I suppose the question I have is this:
Is feeding children….starving children….who, but for your intervention, would most likely die or succumb to some easily preventable disease (like malaria), the right thing to do only in so much as it affords us the subsequent opportunity to share the gospel about Jesus in words with them?
Put differently, if we were not able (just pretend) in any way shape or form to actually “share the gospel” with the kids, would that negate the obligation to go and feed them? I mean, if the ultimate good is that their little souls are saved, then what good is it to feed them if the “true gospel” is not preached in the process?
The True Gospel
Somehow, it appears that the church has landed quite emphatically on a doctrine whereby evangelistic conquests for conversion of souls through the professing of the gospel by words (evangelism) is the ultimate end of the Christian church. Converting Souls is our greatest good or charge. I suppose one could see this preeminence rising up over time as our increasingly Arminian view of salvation has taken the front seat in our churches. We have been knighted as “converters of souls” and charged with the duty of saving as many from the flames of hell as possible before our mighty King returns. After all, if salvation can be impacted by man, and God has no say in the matter (we all retain our free will of course – the other preeminent doctrine of the postmodern western church) then surely we must work in everything to ensure that all of our acts, words and time are dedicated towards this end. Feeding kids must then be a means to an end….and the end must be saving their souls!
But my question is this…
Is the conversion of souls for the message of the gospel really our chief charge?
I would suggest that our chief aim is to glorify God.
That is, to glory in Him, and to demonstrate His glory to the world. I would further suggest, that salvation is His, and His alone. He honors us with a role as heralds of his Good News, but the work of salvation is His, both on the cross, and in the hearts of men.
Imagine if the good Samaritan had only agreed to help the man on the street on condition that he agreed to watch the Jesus Video at the motel where he gave him stay? Imagine if Jesus had only fed the 5000 on condition that they stayed and listened to the rest of his sermon?
You see, I am not sure that we are afforded the right to decide when we do and do not care for those in need, and I don’t think we have the privilege of deciding whether or not we come to the aid of “the least of these” depending on the propensity that a clear and concise doctrinally correct gospel message accompanies our provisions. Why?
Because loving people, just like loving God
Loving orphans and those who cant help themselves glorifies God intrinsically. It shows his love, magnifies his mercy, and demonstrates the beauty of his Son on the cross with or without words. You see, his son, came to help those who never knew him. He came to provide salvation from a sin they could not overcome. He sacrificed himself to provide life for them though they could never repay him. And he did it because it was WHO HE WAS. The cross wasn’t an afterthought. Self sacrificial love (Agape Love) is who God is. God is Love.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – John 4:8
And, likewise, we are called to go to those that we don’t know. To provide salvation for them from the results of a fallen world that they cannot overcome. We are to sacrifice of our time, our money and our lives to provide them with life although they can never repay us. Because we are in Him, and He is love, and
“we love because he first loved us” – John 4:19
Loving starving kids glorifies God, because it is what he commanded us to do, and because it intrinsically demonstrates the gospel more aptly than any words ever could. Now, I am not suggesting that sound doctrine has no place. Nor am I contesting that poor theology does not have far reaching negative implications within the church. Knowing the “truth” is important. And understanding the correct “way” to gain eternal “life” is essential. But lets not forget that He is the Truth. He is the Way, and He is the life. John 14:6
And He is best seen through our Love for one another.
“This is how they will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” – John 13:35
There was a time that I would have been reluctant to provide financial support to a church in Africa where I knew that a sub par version of the gospel was being preached. The prosperity Gospel is rampant in Africa, and the continent is “aflame” with hyper Pentecostal spiritualism and distractions (pun intended). But I cannot believe that my fear of poor doctrine somehow overrides my obligation to love these kids.
Again, what if Jesus had only fed those of the 5000 that had sound doctrine? That would be ludicrous. He fed them because they were hungry and because he loved them. Period.
One more thought….
What if it was your kid?
No, seriously, imagine your kid.
If you are like me you would die for your children.
Now imagine you are without means to feed them, they are sick, your spouse has long since passed away from the same sickness, and you know that you too will soon die. Your child is managing to find a small, measly meal on most days, but many days there simply is no food. When you die, your eldest will likely be able to survive, likely by prostituting herself to the local men, but your youngest child will not be so lucky. You know, because you have seen it happen before, in the village around you.
Now imagine that you have heard of churches in far away lands that have much, that have been “blessed by God”. They take vacations, drive big cars, and overfeed their pets. And they know Jesus, the Jesus who loved children, and perhaps they could help you. Perhaps they could help your children.
Now seriously, be honest for just a second. How would you like the wealthy church in the far away land to treat you? Wouldn’t you want them to help? Wouldn’t that be the thing you would expect them to do, if in fact they truly were followers of your Jesus.
” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” Luke 6:31
But what if their doctrine was different than yours?
What if you believed that God was three distinctly different persons? And they didn’t?
What if you believed that healings and speaking in tongues were daily occurrences in church?
And they didn’t?
What if they weren’t completely convinced about the virgin birth?
What if you believed that you needed a second baptism of the Spirit, or a third? And they didn’t?
Heck, what if you believed that Jesus was just a nice man, and not the Son of God?
Would that negate the hope you had that they would show you Love?
Should that negate their obligation to show you love.
How could it? But it does, Daily, to about 29,000 kids around the world.
– If anyone has material possession and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:17
Friends, I am not looking to do away with Theology…
I am merely protesting that perhaps it is our Theology that needs to be thought through.
To summarize my ramblings….
- I believe it is clear, in the gospels, in the epistles, on the OT and the New, and most certainly in the life of our King that self sacrificial love for others is in and of itself glorifying to God, and therefore a necessary obligation for the church.
- I believe that loving those who can’t love you back without the opportunity to specifically tell them the words of the good news isn’t something short of sharing the gospel, but rather IS THE GOSPEL. It is the good news lived out, it is the love of Christ manifest in the people of his church.
- I believe that the truth of the good news for which we are heralds is most effectually shared with an increasingly deaf world in the context of that same gospel being demonstrated in our lives by the acts of Love that our Father has commanded us to do, and that our Messiah demonstrated in his life. In other words if we show love first (as an End), we will also be more effective in telling them about His Love for them on the cross.
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” – James 1:22 NASB