Wednesday, 06 May 2020
Snow days are a momentary reprieve, but once the snow melts there’s going to be a reckoning. C. S. Lewis uses the analogy of an almost endless winter to teach young children about the coming of the king. In his book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it’s always winter and never Christmas until Aslan bursts back onto the scene, bringing with him the glorious festivities that have been lacking in the frozen tundra that was Narnia. I look forward to reading you these stories someday and telling you about how, even during the seasons of snow, we are preparing for an eternal spring.
The parallel isn’t exact, but I think about one Mississippi snow day every time the conversation of race and justice devolves into the proclamation that we need to “just preach the gospel.” As the conversation continues to reach fever pitch, I hear a barrage of familiar phrases coming from my more conservative brethren: social justice is worldly and imprecise verbiage; racism is hatred, and the gospel fixes that; everyone sins, and there is no need to highlight the specific sins of specific people groups (unless it’s time to rattle off statistics about abortion or drug busts in black communities).
And all of these tend to converge into that ultimate phrase: just preach the gospel.
It sounds so right! It’s like waking up dreading school and then getting the email that lets you off the hook.
“I know you felt really uncomfortable with all this race talk, but it’s all good. Just preach the gospel!”
We can heave a sigh of relief. God’s got this.
Truly. He does.
The gospel is the ultimate answer to all of life’s questions. Michael Horton describes it this way: “God’s promise of a son who will crush the serpent’s head, forgive the sins of his people, raise them from the dead, and give them everlasting life solely on the basis of his grace for the sake of Christ.”
We who were once alienated from God have been ushered into the family of faith through the death of God’s Son, not based on our merit (or melanin), but because of his grace.
My son, here is an important detail that you must never forget: our primary goal in this life is not to bring about racial reconciliation in the church. In fact, our primary goal isn’t even to bring about justice here on earth. The ultimate justice has been dealt to Christ on the cross, accomplishing our reconciling in him.
As believers, we are absolutely in the business of spreading a message of reconciliation. But that reconciliation goes far beyond the scars accrued throughout America’s spotty history of racial injustice. And so does our quest for racial justice.
We are ambassadors not of the amount of melanin in our skin, but of the good news of Christ’s redeeming work. This is the good news that we proclaim: we serve a God who is in the business of reconciling all that was lost in the Garden of Eden when our first parents sinned.
This message of reconciliation has to have implications for how believers relate to one another. We are united with bonds that are stronger than the familial bonds of our kinsmen (Mt 19:29). Our priorities are organized not around things of this world, but around another world entirely.
Yet the gospel we preach is a very specific message. It isn’t all of the good things we’re supposed to do. And we technically aren’t just preaching the gospel when we talk about the implications of the gospel.
I want to be careful because there are two different ways we could be talking about the gospel. We are either talking about the actual message—the good news, the protoevangelium—or the covenant of grace that it entails. The former is God’s fulfillment of the promise he made in Genesis 3:15. The latter involves the way that we live in light of that proclamation.
As you grow up, you will learn that your Christian brethren have a tendency to either use “the gospel” (the phrase, not the substance) as a catch-all for every good work Christians should be doing or as a silencer for anything too difficult to think about.
How many times do we mash the revelation of God’s Word into pat slogans to attack the world’s problems? “The gospel is the answer!” How conveniently the entire counsel of the Bible can be diminished to simple answers for our deepest problems—less like a textbook and more like the microwave instructions on a carton of ramen.
In a world full of complex beings, there are bound to be complex problems. As believers, we have been called to dwell in this world until Christ returns, spreading the message of the gospel in the hope that God will save sinners for his glory. Our most pressing issues have been laid at the foot of the cross.
Whatever struggles we face in this life pale in comparison to the glory that we have been promised in eternity. In our sinfulness, we deserved death, hell, and the grave. But “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
Now, those for whom Christ died are God’s sons and daughters through faith (Gal 3:26). And he cares for us (1 Pet 5:7). He will never leave or forsake us (Heb 13:5). Even in moments where we feel most abandoned, he is near and he is at work (Ps 34:18; Rom 8:28). In the mire of our deepest regret, in the pit of our deepest longing, the gospel shines as our truest hope. We have been justified. We have been adopted. We are his.
Yes and amen. The gospel is the answer. You will get no argument from me on that point.