Last month I seen a cartoon circling social media making fun of California’s ban on plastic straws. The cartoon depicted a scene from an urban area all too common these days. It showed people who were homeless living in tents and dumpsters. Coming from the left is a well dressed politician proclaiming his gospel. He said, “Good news! Plastic straws are banned!” The goal of the cartoon was to point out that of all the possible issues society could fix banning plastic straws should come after we help people who live on the streets. Banning plastic straws is a good idea. But, it doesn’t help the person living in the dumpster.
But, I wasn’t thinking plastic straws when I saw this cartoon. I was thinking about the gospel that church folk preach. The politician in the cartoon could just as well had been a well dressed preacher saying, “Good news! Jesus has saved you for heaven, if you only believe.” The point being while we preach, “heaven” people are living in hell on earth.
Now, I am not saying heaven is not part of the gospel. It very much is. And we can give comfort to dying believers, and their loved ones, that heaven waits for them. Heaven is a hope we can give to those in need. But, it is not the only thing we need give them.
James says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (Jame 2:15-16). If we only preach and say, “Believe and heaven awaits!” while we see people in need what good is that? Preaching God’s love and mercy without showing God’s love and mercy is dead preaching.
I’ve written about this before. Some preachers today believe the mission of the Church is strictly preaching for salvation of souls. But this leaves a huge hole in their faith, and in their preaching.
The true Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful enough to save the whole person, not just get them into heaven. Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16). The Greek word for salvation here can be rendered, “rescue, salvation, health, wholeness and restoration to the original state and condition.” It is for the whole person, healed of the sickness of sin, rescued from the slavery of evil, made whole into a new creation!
If we have hope in the next life only we are a people most to be pitied.