Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Sun Bather, Nineveh, and Us: Why We Need to Share the Gospel

"In 1928, a very interesting case came before the courts in Massachusetts. It concerned a man who had been walking on a boat dock when suddenly he tripped over a rope and fell into the cold, deep water of an ocean bay. He came up sputtering and yelling for help and then sank again, obviously in trouble. His friends were too far away to get to him, but only a few yards away, on another dock, was a young man sprawled on a deck chair, sunbathing. The desperate man shouted, “Help, I can't swim!” The young man, an excellent swimmer, only turned his head to watch as the man floundered in the water, sank, came up sputtering in total panic, and then disappeared forever.
The family of the drowned man was so upset by that display of callous indifference that they sued the sunbather. They lost. The court reluctantly ruled that the man on the dock had no legal responsibility whatever to try and save the other man's life. In effect, the law agrees with Cain’s presupposition: I am not my brother's keeper, and I have every legal right to mind my own business and to refuse to become involved."

When you hear a story like this one, what does it stir inside you? It’s so hard to imagine someone so indifferent towards the suffering of another human being. How could a man prefer his warmth and comfort sunbathing rather than lending a hand in saving a human life? It reminds me of another man, a man from the Bible, the prophet Jonah. He, too, was content to sit by and watch men die. He was more preoccupied in his own comfort while sitting under the shade-giving plant than in the salvation of a whole city. What’s more, he wanted the city to perish.
It’s easy to look at these two examples and be indignant. There’s something wrong about it. It’s a given, we think, that if you see someone drowning, you should want to save them. The fact that a prophet of God would rather see a whole city perish than come to repentance is almost unthinkable.
But are we guilty of such callous indifference, in much the same way? There are people drowning in their sins all around us. Our cities and towns are turning from God and heading headlong towards destruction. And yet, how much are we doing to save them? Are we safe and warm inside our own little worlds, or are we stepping outside of our comfort zones to share the Gospel? Do we care enough to actively seek to transform our communities?

Well, if you’re like me, I begin to get uncomfortably close to that sun bather or Jonah as I exam my own life. I seldom go out of my way to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my neighbor. I am often too caught up in my own busyness to give it much thought.
What’s more, I shirk away from the uncomfortableness of sharing the Gospel. What will people think of me? Will I look weird? Will they fire questions at me that I don’t have the answer to? Will they never want to talk to me again? I have been profoundly changed by the hope and joy I have found in Christ, but I would almost rather keep it a private faith for safety’s sake.
This is a holdover of the old man inside of me. It’s still inside all of, compelling us to seek our own desires above those of sharing the Gospel with our neighbors. But, as Christians, it’s time to live up to our calling as Children of the King. As this wonderful passage charges us:
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Ephesians 4:17-25

It's time for us to renew our minds and put on our new self. We need to grow in righteousness and holiness, so that we can boldly proclaim the truth that is in Jesus to our neighbors. The world is in desperate need for us to do so. Like the passage says, they’re not learning about Christ from the sin they are trapped in. They will never learn about Christ as they go about living their lives as gentiles. It’s time for us to be unashamed about the gospel like Paul was, and to boldly proclaim it whenever we get the opportunity to!
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Romans 1:16-17