Musings of a Reluctant Evangelical
By Marlene J. Chase
I stop to talk to my six-year-old neighbor. We chat amiably for a while, and then between nervous licks of her strawberry cone she tells me about an uncle who has been hurting her mommy.
I listen, repulsed by her story. She is one of many hurting people in a society plagued with problems. Hope is all but dead, and God seems buried and forgotten if indeed He ever existed at all. The air rings with Pilate’s familiar taunt when confronted by a flogged and bleeding Christ: “What is truth?” (John 18:38).
A Divided World
I cannot ignore my neighbor’s story; authorities will bring change into this child’s life, but who can guarantee that it will change for the better? Only the Truth himself can help her. I begin to hum softly.
“Do you know this song?” I ask her.
She looks at me with wide, grave eyes. Perhaps my less than tuneful rendition has been unrecognizable. “It’s ‘Jesus Loves Me,’” I explain.
She screws up her small features and returns to her ice cream.
I am astounded. Doesn’t every child know “Jesus Loves Me”? Statistics show that an increasing number of people do not know the most basic facts about God. Others regard Christianity as a curious anachronism, a cause for suspicion rather than celebration.
Strangers to Truth
What does Christianity mean for my neighbor? What does it mean to a culture that has lost the one true God? What do neighbors and friends make of the church’s slogans and campaigns, soulful anthems and contemporary choruses? Too often, people feel threatened by Christians who impose ideas and codes of behavior for which they have no point of reference.
“What have we evangelicals done to make Good News—the very meaning of the word evangelical—sound like such a threat?” asks author Philip Yancey. He notes that neither Jesus nor Paul seemed concerned about cleaning up a degenerate Roman Empire. Instead, first-century Christians used their time and resources for spreading the good news of a Kingdom defined by love.
To the decadent Corinthians, a decidedly evangelical Paul came “with much trembling” not to bring society into line with his convictions but to reveal a love so great that “no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:2–9).
Perhaps we evangelicals have become distracted from our mission: to preach the good news of God’s love. A society that has once embraced the Christian gospel but largely rejected it is not an easy audience. If people are to be attracted to the message of the gospel once again, they will need a demonstration of love to overcome inbuilt skepticism.
Love in Action
Suicide bombers believe they will be rewarded if they give their lives for their beliefs. Paul didn’t work for any such self-absorbed reward. His heart beat with the love of the God who gave His life to ransom the world. He spread the good news in a culture as degraded and hostile as ours and stated, “I could wish that I myself were . . . cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers” (Rom. 9:3).
That is a truer picture of an evangelical Christian. We must do more than groan over the evil practices of the day. We must do more than sing “Jesus Loves Me.” We must demonstrate to a hostile world that Christ in our lives is avidly seeking their highest good.
“I have come that you might have life and have it to the full,” Christ said (John 10:10). With that He was willing to give up His rights and redeem us at the costly price of His life. And that must be the focus of a true evangelical.
- Marlene Chase of Rockford, Ill., is a former editor in chief and literary secretary for Salvation Army Publications.