The freedom of the gospel gives us life that is not bound to the narrative of this world but has the ability to transcend it. Fellow Gospel Life blogger Leroy Barber asserted that truth a few weeks ago in the context of his discussion about welcoming back those released from prison – something all Christians are called to do. Following Jesus is indeed about welcoming any and all in need of reconciliation, healing, and restoration.
As I read through Barber’s helpful list of ways to connect, it struck me that underlying all of his suggestions is an assumption of relationship. Loving relationship rightly undergirds everything he recommends. Yet, as we reach out, whether it be to those newly released from prison or others in need of God’s transformative love, I believe it’s fair to ask, “Will they perceive we are reaching out in love? Or will they view us with skepticism? Defensiveness? Caution?”
We live in a culture marked by a dramatic lack of trust, and the Church is not exempt as a target for those feelings of suspicion. As the Body of Christ, we have some restorative work to do as we witness for the kingdom. Barber is spot on with his suggestions about welcoming; and as we engage others in this age of mis- and distrust, we need to become aware of how our “way of being in the world” communicates (or doesn’t) that our motive is love.
I believe there is a posture, a stance, that Christians can take to strengthen their ability to make the gospel known with integrity – a way of being in the world that creates and sustains the trust needed for the long haul work of evangelism.
This way of being in the world both supports and transcends the details of whatever program or ministry we may be involved in at any given time. I like to use the metaphor of embrace to illustrate this posture. I believe it’s a helpful metaphor because it points to the space necessary for the work of the Holy Spirit – to reconcile, transform, heal, restore.
It’s also helpful because it emphasizes the dignity of others and highlights our need to exercise self-control for the sake of the integrity of others. Embrace underlines the importance of mutuality and reciprocity. Although there is always a decidedly personal dimension to Christian faith, it is never an isolated experience.
We are all in this together.
This originally appeared at www.gospel-life.net.