Several members of my church, including some dear friends, are leaving today to go to Honduras to help the Church there. They are leaving today–the day after Christmas, while many are going shopping, sitting around their homes drinking hot chocolate, or simply relishing a couple days off of work. They go sacrificing vacation time or wages for this upcoming week, possibly jeopardizing their fiscal stability and comfort. They go also after months of foregoing various luxuries in order to raise the money needed to fund the trip. They do this–what many in the world and in the church might consider a careless use of money and a waste of time, because they desire to glorify Jesus Christ by regarding others in the world as better than themselves.
Some in the Church grumble in the background, “Why do we continue to send our people and our money to places in the world where the Gospel has already been preached?” Others have grumbled about the nature of some of the past trips to Honduras, namely those that were done for the purpose of building dwellings and structures for the Church in Honduras rather than being a concerted effort to preach the Gospel to those who had not heard.
It is easy to sympathize with the practicality of such objections. Why are we sending our people and our resources to places that already have established churches and have natives who preach the Gospel while there are others in the world who have never heard the name of Jesus? To some it is comparable to a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman going door-to-door in the same neighborhood instead of venturing out into other neighborhoods that have yet to see a Kirby vacuum cleaner demonstration. This would be a valid concern, if we were, in fact, salesmen.
However, we are neither salesmen nor is the Gospel a sales pitch. The Gospel by its nature (see previous post) is a regard for others that is higher than for ourselves. Biblically, this regard for others is to be manifested primarily toward those in the Church and secondarily to the rest of the world. This is why Christ says that the world will know that we are his disciples by our love for one another and why the Macedonians gave out of their extreme poverty, not to a group of strangers who had never heard the Gospel, but to the suffering saints in Jerusalem. We are to do missions like the Macedonians did missions–convincingly demonstrating to the world that our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is greater than our love for ourselves.
The Apostle Paul gives one of the most beautiful and glorious pictures of evangelism in his second letter to the Corinthians. He writes:
Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ (vv. 2:14-17).
There are a thousand things to note in this text, but I will just note the pertinent parts. First we see that evangelism is glorious parade with Christ as our marching leader. It is a parade of victory for a war that has been won and a salvation that has been accomplished, and it is manifested through us as we spread the fragrance of Christ in the world. Now, how fragrant do you think the Gospel is to the world when they see American Christians living it up in big houses, driving fancy cars, and sipping on Starbucks while they let their supposed brothers and sisters in Christ live in three-sided buildings and drink rancid water?
Second, we are not peddlers of the Gospel. The Gospel cannot be sold nor was it ever meant to be sold. Yet, we try desperately to sell the Gospel with our thousands of pretty tracts, searching for just the right one at the Christian bookstore as if we were looking for the perfect birthday card. Friends, there is only one Gospel, and it does not need to be sugar coated with Western symbols. The Gospel is the same, always and forever, and its attractiveness is found in the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and in the fruits of the Spirit manifested in the saints, not in the words of salesman or in the shininess of a tract. The unbelieving world should not be saying, “Wow, somehow they incorporated Austin Powers into a Gospel tract,” but they should be saying, “Wow, those Christians live in poverty so that their fellow Christians might have food and shelter.” Sacrifice through the power of the Spirit is what makes Christianity attractive, not a New Testament that looks like a trashy teen magazine.
All of this is to say that we all need to walk in the same direction as those who are on their way to Honduras this day after Christmas. We need to do as they are doing and as they have done throughout this year, viz. regarding the Church abroad and the Gospel-less world as better than themselves and showing it through their sacrifice. And I say that we need to walk in the same direction and not the same way, because our lives of sacrifice is a journey that manifests itself in our ever decreasing wealth and possessions, our increasing poverty, and our increasing and abounding joy in Christ. Through this, the unbelieving world will see Christ as our magnificent and glorious Savior and King.