Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What Does "Evangelical" Mean?

Recently, the Sojourners blog has been doing a series on the topic "What is an Evangelical?" I was particularly struck by the response by Lynne Hybels. She talks about encountering a difficult time in her life, and how she responded by reading about Jesus over and over again. She connects the Jesus of the pietists- those who emphasize a personal relationship with God- and the Jesus of the activists- those who emphasize social holiness. She writes:
At that point in my life I desperately needed to be welcomed, valued, understood, seen and forgiven. I desperately needed to sit in that Presence of ultimate and unconditional love. I needed to know -- and I still need to know, every day -- that I am loved despite my failures, tha I am loved for the uniqueness of my true self, and that I am loved as I sit quietly doing absolutely nothing to earn, or buy, or chase that love... Whenever I lean fully into the reality of my loneliness, my insecurity, my fear, or my brokenness, I find Jesus there loving me. That has become a Mystery I cannot live without.

In Jesus I also found a radical call to compassionate action in the world. At Jesus' first public appearance he said, "I have come to set the captives free and to preach good news to the poor." Then, through his teaching and life of servanthood, he slowly and methodically turned the values of the powerful Roman Empire upside down. He threw the moneychangers out of the temple because they were exploiting the poor. He said that when we feed the hungry or clothe the naked it's like we're doing it to him. He said to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us. Jesus changed the rules and ushered in an upside-down Kingdom.
I couldn't have said it better myself. God is a God of love. As Jesus loves us, we are to love the world. We are to evangelize, literally to "be good newsing" in the world. What does it mean to "be good newsing?" Lynne showed us that it means to be aware of Jesus' love for us and to bring that love to the world. We are to bring about Christ's upside-down Kingdom. Amen, amen, and amen.

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