Are We Really Evangelical? Thoughts on Hell, Action, and Missional Living
“If we only believed what comes out of our mouths, our actions would be very different.” These were the words which poured over me as I stood in the shower this morning. If I truly believed, if I really caught a glimpse of the urgency of the gospel, I would be doing things so much more differently. All the things which seem so incredibly important, would suddenly seem foolish. If the reality of Hell (on earth and eternal) was tangible, real, and inevitable, I could not help but do all that I could to rescue as many as possible. I would not be able to help myself—I would abandon all that is temporal and wasting away, and save lives.
Getting my yard done would be a waste of time. Getting that higher paying career would not matter. Trying to look good, feel good, and be liked would all be vain facades of a self-absorbed and arrogant man.
Do we not say this of people in our own communities?
Imagine this if you will.
Each and every day a nice young gentlemen awakes in his apartment building, gets ready for the day and happily greets everyone in the building on his way to work. The man is well liked and everyone considers him one of the nicest and most pleasant people to be around. He is generous, helping old ladies carry their groceries up the flights of stairs to their apartment and is always willing to lend a helping hand to those moving in or out (a painful and arduous task indeed if you have ever lived in an apartment).
One night, however, he awakes to find that the apartment complex is on fire. Nothing drastic yet. It is not life threatening, but in a matter of time all will be consumed. This man is left with a choice. Do I warn the people in the apartment or save my stuff without which I won’t live a comfortable and enjoyable life. Opting for his own comfort, he leaves the apartment silently with his prized possessions all cluttered about him. They are safe and so is his comfort—but at what cost?
All those he claimed to care for, whom he only hours ago had warmly bid goodnight, were now trapped in an agonizing tomb of fire and death.
This silhouette of a man, I dare say, is both you and I.
Sure, some may grab a few less things and warn a couple more people on the way out of peril—but very few abandon comfort and stuff to truly warn their neighbors. And even less risk the peril of the flames and physical death to get this message out. But is this not the sort of behavior we cherish and praise in our culture? Do we not honor the firefighter, police officer, military, or citizen who sacrifices their safety and comfort to rescue others?
Why is it that the Christian, when aware of an even greater fire and more dire peril, does even less than those who risk it all for something fleeting?
I submit that there are only two possibilities: we either do not believe or understand the reality of danger in which those all around us are in (and therefore should pray for a clearer glimpse of this danger) or, frankly, we don’t really care about other people.
It is the latter which scares me the most.
We have heard countless people argue bitterly about the realities of Hell and the insistence that the flames are not some temporal metaphor but are real and eternal. The tongues of these flames will lick and snarl the flesh off billions of people eternally.
If even an ounce of this intellectual conviction and debate were given over to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those doomed to this place, western Christianity—and perhaps the world—would already look much different.
Too often I have heard people pray to have a heart for the lost and countless preaches call congregations to live missionally. But this heart and this way of life should be the natural consequence for the Christian who was just rescued from the flames.
So many of these Christians, myself included, go by the title “evangelical.” Are we really? Are we really about evangelizing? Are we really about preaching the gospel? Or does this term just simply mean that we are okay with others doing that kind of dirty work—I’ll just slip out of the burning building clinging to and enjoying my comfort and stuff. I’ll leave the rescuing to the professionals—missionaries, pastors, and over-zealous twenty-somethings.
The reality is, there is no such thing as a Christian that is not a missionary. It is who we are. We are evangelical to the core.
Our God is an evangelical, not just in term but in action. Are you?
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