Part 12 of series:
The Mission of God and the Missional Church
Yesterday I began to explain how we can enact the good news of Jesus even as we speak of this good news. Such enactment is essential if want people to hear us when we speak.
How can we enact the good news in today’s world so that people might experience the presence of God and be drawn to believe in Jesus? In a nutshell, we are to do the works associated with God’s kingdom. For example, even as Jesus healed the sick and sent his disciples to do the same, so we have been sent into the world as agents of divine healing. This does not mean that you should set up your tent and hold healing crusades. Relatively few Christians are called to such a ministry, and many who claim to be so called seem to be more in the entertainment business than the kingdom healing business. Nevertheless, we can all be channels of God’s healing power in manifold ways. Most basically, we can pray for the sick. By bringing people’s physical ailments before God’s throne of grace, we share in his healing work in their lives. Sometimes healings are immediate and astounding. Often they come more slowly. In some cases God chooses to heal directly. Other times, he works through doctors and medical science. And, of course, there are times when God chooses not to heal a person’s physical body, but to do the greatest healing of all after he or she dies. Healing has always been closely associated with the mission of Jesus Christ, as Christians pray, or as they use their medical abilities, or as they build hospitals and educate people about health.
This, by the way, is one of Christopher Hitchens’ greatest omissions as he criticizes Christianity in god is not Great. For all of our faults, we Christians have done an extraordinary job bringing God’s healing to people. In many parts of the world today, the Spirit heals in dramatic and miraculous ways. Similar, there are Christian hospitals and medical centers all over the globe. Even if Hitchens is not happy with the Christian nature of these centers of healing, he surely must recognize that Christians have, perhaps more than any other grouping of people in the world, helped to bring health and healing to millions and millions of people. Atheism will be much more attractive when we start seeing “Atheist Medical Center” or “Atheist Memorial Hospital” signs in our cities.
Physical healing, however, is just one component of God’s therapeutic work. The ministry of Jesus touches every part of our lives, not just our bodies and our eternal souls. Through the Holy Spirit, God heals minds, hearts, emotions, relationships, and even social brokenness. When a husband and wife on the verge of divorce are empowered by the Spirit to forgive each other and to mend their marriage, that’s a dynamic enactment and demonstration of the gospel. When a woman who has been wounded by her abusive upbringing is given the freedom to be a new, joyous creature in Christ, the good news shines forth. When Christians of different races join together for worship and mission, even though society would fill them with mutual suspicion, the reconciling work of Jesus takes on flesh and blood.
Throughout history, Christians have been on the forefront of caring for the poor and seeking justice for the downtrodden. For example, the Salvation Army was founded by the Methodist minister, William Booth, during the latter years of the nineteenth century. This ministry accepted the challenge of feeding and clothing the poor of London while, at the same time, sharing the gospel of Christ with them. To this day, the Salvation Army is dedicated to the twin purposes of evangelism and caring for the poor.
In my next post I will focus on one of the most moving examples I know of enacting the good news.