Can we respond redemptively?

quicksandIf so many churches had not been proclaiming and living only half the truth about redemption for the past century, would the U.S. be in the mess it is in today? When the society turns sharply against God’s ways, are those churches even capable of responding redemptively?

Redemption is about God delivering people from slavery. Many have narrowed down salvation to living happily ever after in eternity. When broken people lash out in anger against a shallow, self-absorbed, middle-class Churchianity, what will happen when those churches double down on their half-truth about redemption?

Hugh Whelchel writes at about “two-chapter gospel” vs. “four-chapter gospel,” quoting Tim Keller:

The purpose of redemption is not to escape the world but to renew it. . . . It is about the coming of God’s kingdom to renew all things. . . . If we lose the emphasis on conversion, we lose the power of the gospel for personal transformation. We will not work sacrificially and joyfully for justice. On the other hand, if we lose the emphasis on the corporate—on the kingdom—we lose the power of the gospel for cultural transformation.

Whelchel says:

The four-chapter gospel is the story that chronicles:

  • Creation: the way things were.
  • Fall: the way things are.
  • Redemption: the way things could be.
  • Restoration: the way things will be.

Yet over the past 150 years, the church in the Western world has looked at the Bible from a different and more limited perspective. In America, during the Second Great Awakening, revivalist preachers embraced a view of the gospel which focused on personal sin and individual salvation. While the movement had substantial positive effects, it and other historical events led to a truncated view of the gospel embraced by many Christians today ….

We may be too quick to criticize others for the hole in their gospel — that stirs up emotions and gets us attention. Personally, I don’t think the problem is our gospel but our misunderstanding of redemption and the scope of transformation God intends salvation to bring to individual lives and communities. It’s the reason we don’t grasp — or live out — the command to love our neighbors as ourselves. It’s why we don’t think social justice has anything to do with the gospel.

When we understand the story of redemption, the gospel is the power of God for salvation. Individuals who have been freed from captivity can walk in God’s ways — and teach others to walk in his ways as well. If we fail to tell the true story of redemption, our “two-chapter” gospel is powerless in transforming lives and communities.

People suffering in slavery want more than promises of a “happily ever afterlife.” They deserve more than that. Happily, God offers more.

We must accept Isaiah’s counsel, if we are to have any hope of turning our rapidly sinking society toward God. We must “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

About Mark Kelly

Jesus follower, Bible reader, husband/father/son/brother/uncle/grandfather, hiker, writer/editor, snapshooter
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