By: Erich Bridges, IMB’s Global Correspondent
It’s hard not to “offend” people these days, especially if you actually “believe” what the Bible says about “right, wrong, sin and salvation.”
Fearing the loss of friends, being dismissed as irrelevant, or worse, being called intolerant, many evangelicals jump on the bandwagon of popular social-justice causes, but lapse into uncomfortable silence on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Some quietly abandon biblical positions on controversial issues altogether.
That path eventually leads to a deeper surrender, however. Because the entire foundation of biblical morality, not to mention the biblical basis of Christian missions, rests on the most “offensive” claim of all: “the gospel itself.”
“The most offensive and counter cultural claim in Christianity is not what Christians believe about homosexuality or abortion, marriage or religious liberty,” writes IMB President David Platt in his new book, “Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Persecution, Abortion, Orphans and Pornography. “
Instead, the most offensive claim in Christianity is that “God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet. Every one of us stands before Him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to Him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Savior and risen King. All who trust in His love will experience everlasting life while all who turn from His lordship will suffer everlasting death.”
That claim, and the idea that God became a man, died on a cross and rose again to embody it, is foolishness at best, anathema at worst to postmodernists, atheists, secularists, Muslims and other subsets of humanity comprising billions of people. It is increasingly costly, even dangerous in certain places, to proclaim it. Some cultures consider it blasphemy; others call it hate speech. That’s really nothing new if you peruse church history.
The main question for self-proclaimed Christians, Platt suggests, is this: “Do we believe this gospel?”
If we don’t, we should reconsider whether we really follow the Christ revealed in the Bible. If we do, everything else we believe and do must flow from it. We don’t get a pass on the toughest issues engulfing culture today, nor do we get to pick which ones to address. We must counter them all with the revolutionary, uncompromising love of the gospel. Hence the title of Platt’s book.
The gospel is an “equal-opportunity” offender, as Platt has discovered in his personal spiritual life. He says God convicted him of his own silence about racism and abortion, among other issues. That’s why he’s speaking to other believers now.
“I sense a trend in the church among evangelical Christians — particularly younger evangelicals, but really broader,” he observes.
We have this tendency to pick and choose which cultural issues we’re going to stand up and speak out on and which we’re going to sit down and be quiet on, usually based on those issues that are most comfortable and least costly for us to speak out on. It is right for us to speak out against poverty and sex trafficking, and I’m thankful for increased awareness of issues like that and the way people are speaking out on those issues.
“The danger, though, is if we speak boldly on issues like that, but then when it comes to issues like abortion or so-called same-sex marriage — issues that are much more likely to bring us into contention with the culture around us — we’re much more likely to be quiet. Before we know it, our supposed social justice actually becomes a selective social injustice. … The same gospel that compels us to combat poverty compels us to defend marriage. The same gospel that compels us to war against sex trafficking compels us to war against sexual immorality in all of its forms.”
That kind of consistency won’t win us many popularity contests, but if we back up our words with lives of grace, truth and loving action, we will change culture rather than surrendering to it.
Why court controversy so early in his tenure as IMB leader? Platt began writing the book several years ago, while he was pastor of “The Church at Brook Hills” in Birmingham, Ala. He submitted it to his publisher well before his election by IMB trustees last year. But he remains convinced the time is right for its message to an American church facing fundamental challenges.
“I trust that the Lord led me to write this and knew exactly where I would be when it came out,” he told IMB missionaries and staff in a recent message. “Further, I am completely convinced that these issues are not just American issues … these are global issues … . I want to use any platform the Lord has given to me to strengthen the church in this culture in order that we might send out and support brothers and sisters into other cultures with rock-solid confidence in God’s Word and with wisdom to apply the gospel to these pressing social issues.”
Only servants with that kind of confidence can make a real impact on the world’s lost, who suffer from the worst injustice of all.
“The greatest injustice in the world is the fact that a couple of billion people still don’t have access to the gospel,” Platt says. It is the gospel alone “that has the power not only to change cultures on this earth but to transform lives for eternity.”
“Let’s get down on our knees, then get up from our knees and do whatever it takes, no matter what that means, to set the sails for God to empower limitless missionary teams who are making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached people for the glory of His name.”
Will you “fast, pray and give” to see this “vision” fulfilled?