Incarnation as the basis of Mission

I live in Midtown. My wife and I frequently walk the streets of Westport and the Plaza. Often times as we are walking, there are “Christians” standing on the street corners yelling out of blow horns that doom is coming on us sinners. They take the beautiful message of the Gospel, and narrow it down to a few verses on little pamphlets and hand them out to those of us walking by. I usually take one out of curiosity to see if maybe they’ve changed tacticts… but they haven’t. Often on one side of the pamphlet there is scripture about how we are sinners and deserve to die. On this side there is often pictures of fire (to represent Hell). On the other side, with clouds and sunshine as the background, there is scripture telling of how Jesus came and died for us sinners, so that we could be saved (and therefore not go to the firery place).
They manipulate and transform the message of the Gospel into so much less than it was and is meant to be. It is almost as if the people they are yelling at are mere objects to add to their storehouse of the “saved.”
I don’t remember Jesus treating people with such lack of humanity.
I wonder if God wants a heaven full of people who are there just because they don’t want to go to hell. Seems self-centered to me. I definately wouldn’t want to be in a heaven with people who are only concerned about there own skin.

The following quote is from a book I’m reading, it is “The Holy Longing” By: Ronald Roheiser, and he is arguing that the incarnation has a profound impact on how we treat and try to reach fellow humans:

“Some years ago a Christian journal carried the lament of a woman who, with some bitterness, explained why she did not believe in God:

“Don’t come talk to me of God, come to my door with religious pamphlets, or ask me whether I’m saved. Hell holds no threat more agonizing than the harsh reality of my own life. I swear to you that the fires of hell seem more inviting than the bone-deep cold of my own life. And don’t talk to me of church. What does the church know of my despair–barricaded behind its stained-glass windows against the like of me? I once sought repentence and community within your walls, but I saw your God reflected in your faces as you turned away from the likes of me. Forgiveness was never given me. The healing love that I sought was carefully hoarded, reserved for your own kind. So be gone from me and speak no more of God. I’ve seen your God made manifest in you and he is a God without compassion. So long as your God witholds the warmth of human touch from me, I shall remain an unbeliever.”

The author notes: “never in her explanation did she mention dogma, morals, or church authority. For her, the credibility of God and of Christ depended more on something else, the faces of Christians…. the challenge is not… to pass out religious tracts, establish religous television networks to make Jesus known…. the task is to radiate the compassion and love of God, as manifest in Jesus, in our faces and our actions.”

God became incarnate. He put on flesh and lived with us. He served us, he loved us in word and deed. He sweat, he cried, he laughed, he ate, he drank, he celbrated, he mourned, he suffered, he lived, and he died, and he lived again. The message of the Gospel is incredibly mixed with humanity and the divine. It is a message of touch, a message of compassion, a message of love, and grace. Yes, hell can be the end for some, but God didn’t create hell. We did. Hell is for those who want nothing to do with a God who becomes human to show how much He truly loves us. God doesn’t send people to hell, he honors their will to reject Him. Maybe the people carring the blow horns, spouting words of doom rather than gospel are actually the ones perpetuating hell.

How many people who walk the streets of Westport and Midtown need to be told they are going to Hell? None. Many in fact may already be living in their own personal hell. The message needed is not one of condemnation (Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it: John 3), but of compassionate touch into real life.

“For love goes down to the gates of hell and there redeems the dead.”

May we too, not condemn people to hell, but as Christ, walk into their hells, and lay down our lives in loving compassion.

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