What good is faith if it only survives in a sterile environment? The gospel belongs not only in our pulpits but on the streets .
Faith shapes life, gives meaning, and inspires hope. If the gospel is only good news to those whose lives are middle-class, then is it truly “good news?” The gospel applies to addicts, the homeless, and to the marginalized.
Jesus came to bring life to the hopeless, rescue for the perishing, and dignity for the beggar. If these are the people whom Jesus came to serve and give his life for, shouldn’t they be welcomed in our churches and in our theologizing?
Most Christians resist the word theology because it has so much baggage as a useless set of ideas about God. Instead, theology is an act of service to the people of God. At its best, theology presents a helpful and clear way to think rightly about who God is, what He has done, and what that means for creation. In the worst cases, theology is an abstract and complicated speculation about spiritual things that is disconnected from human flourishing.
The question that remains is this: Where is the gospel most at home? In the pulpit, the coffee shop, or on the street? Jesus lived on the streets with sinners whose lives were messy, broken, and too ugly for most of the religious folk. Jesus cared for the outcast and he touched the lepers. If the gospel doesn’t have anything to say for those peole, then is it truly “good news” at all? The gospel must always be the central message from the pulpit, and if the gospel is thin on the gospel then there’s a serious problem… and yet the aim of the gospel must always be pointing sinners and beggars towards the hope found in Jesus Christ.
I write this post from Portland, Maine while on a missions trip with my youth group as we serve refugees and the homeless. And I can’t help asking myself, “How do I share the gospel with a homeless man?” As I have talked with various men and women this week, I am struck by the beauty and the power of the gospel: that God sent his Son to rescue us when we were helpless, and that it is purely accomplished by the grace and mercy of God (not by pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps).
There are many realms of Christian theology that are not immediately applicable to daily life. And yet, even these find their grounding in how they affect other doctrines that influence the Christian life. It should all be connected, and whether you’re a theologian or a simple Christian who is trying to live for Jesus, we should remember this truth.
The streets of suburbia and small-town living will obviously look different than the city. There may not be homeless men and women living on the streets, but there are needy people everywhere you look. Whether it’s in the schools, your office, or in the community’s senior center, there are people whose lives are broken.
The gospel offers real hope to those who need it. In the midst of our comfort and middle-class lives, may we remember that God loved us in the midst of our great need.
But God demonstrates his love for us in this:
that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.