It’s been said that the gospel is offensive enough without our adding to it. We should make every effort to assure that if someone is offended, it is an issue which needs to be worked out between them and God. It should not be due to our own lack of willingness to get out of the way.
I don’t remember the movie, just this one scene. Some crazy general had put together an unbeatable army. With bags of confidence they were being transported, in clandestine fashion, via big silver oil trucks through the snow. A demonstration of their force was about to be unleashed.
Turns out the snow was over ice; thin ice hiding a deep lake. They never made it to the field of battle. The trucks, and the indomitable, well-trained soldiers inside, crashed through the glassy, frozen veneer to repose insignificantly on the bottom of a nameless body of water. The power was never delivered.
We are often reminded of the power of God in that great flagship passage which ignited the Reformation.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16, 17).
The gospel is the “power of God.” In this gospel “the righteousness of God is revealed.” Of course, all of this assumes that it is actually delivered. Later Paul will write that “faith comes by hearing” (Romans 10:16b). The apostle will appeal to the very poetic words of Isaiah and Nahum that we might appreciate “How beautiful are the feet” (Romans 10:15) of those who bring this message. Again, this beauty and power assumes the truck makes it to the battlefield—the battlefield for the souls of men and women.
What is the thin ice on which the beautiful feet might unwittingly slip (or crash through)? As we rumble down the road of evangelism, are we reformed Christians aware of attributes in our own personalities which might unnecessarily impede a listening ear, losing a redemptive opportunity or potential convert?
At times I do enjoy the poetic tones of the King James Version. Other times those 1611 words just don’t fit well into the 21st century vernacular. The word peculiar comes to mind. In 1 Peter 2:9 Peter tells Christians they are a “peculiar people.” Some of us in the Reformed community run with that. We understand peculiar to mean odd or strange when it actually meant to be owned by someone-in Peter’s meaning, owned by God. Have you noticed the reformed community has become peculiar by the new definition over the old?
Who knows what it would have felt like to sit in a pub with Luther, Zwingli, Bucer, Bullinger or Calvin? I’m guessing in many ways they may have fit right in. These reformers, who carved out western civilization as we know it, had the ears of the people-all kinds of people. So whatever oddities or peculiarities they possessed, it didn’t unnecessarily disenfranchise them. It didn’t unnecessarily remove them from their culture. The operative word here being unnecessarily. No doubt they had run-ins with their culture as Jesus clearly taught good Christians would. But it was a result of the message, not the personalities of the ones delivering it (with the possible exception of Luther).