Wednesday, November 15, 2006

embracing grace 10: a five-foot gospel

In Scot McKnight's book, Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, we run into a five-foot gospel by the name of Araminta, who later changed her name to Harriet Tubman. She was what Paul was talking about in the work of Christ breaking down the immoveable, impenetrable walls, put in place by sin. Walls that make it acceptable to downgrade another race to slave status. Walls that not only divide, but enforce and fortify that division.

I found this chapter very inspiring, and very much needed in much of what I see of our evangelical world today. This may seem unfair. But we as a group often seem rather oblivious to the systemic evil all around us and in the world. But this gospel and God's grace in and through it, will not allow us to live there.

What if Harriet Tubman- the "Moses" of "the Underground Railroad had had a gospel like so many of us have? I know this is hard. But I'm making a point. I'm speaking here of an individualistic gospel. That's all about me, my needs. My sin and forgiveness and reconciliation. What if Harriet Tubman believed and knew only that "gospel"?

But the experience of the slaves with Harriet, would not allow them to embrace a gospel that divides people so that some can be beaten and have their children sold as property to others. Harriet learned through her people that such is not the gospel, and she learned to say, "No!", and do something about this systemic evil through her mother's example.

Does our gospel have anything to do with the genocide in Darfur? The grieving Palestinian or Israeli mother? The bereft of Iraq? The poor among us? Or is it just about getting people's "souls" saved? The things in this world mattering not at all!

Well, if the latter is the case, then you don't have the gospel that Jesus brought. The gospel of the Bible. It is a gospel that has good news of a kingdom from God in Jesus, that begins now. And it's a gospel that cannot be silent and inactive when there is systemic evil and injustice in the world and in our neighborhood.

Read Jesus in the gospels. Read Acts and Paul, for example in Colossians. And the entire New Testament. And the rest of the Bible. This gospel is evident, and really "in your face" throughout. And be satisfied with nothing less.

Why is this gospel often missed by us, especially we evangelicals? How does this fit with "the Jesus Creed"?


jps said...

Amen! Preach it! You are right on.


L.L. Barkat said...

I think some of us stay isolated because we are overwhelmed with what we cannot do, or are not gifted to do. So, not having the heart or skill of a Tubman, we plant all else in the ground.

I consider that Dorcas, for instance, helped the women around her by making clothes. They wept when she died. Her absence left a true hole in that little community.

What am I gifted to do in terms of justice? Do I care about how food is produced, or how jobs are created, or how conflicts are ended? I ask myself and God what I should put my hand to. And then I try to extend... I also consider that there are seasons to life; what I do justly today may differ from my just doings of tomorrows.

Kurt said...

I'm certainly not Harriet Tubman or Dorcas, but I do believe in being a pro-active Christian. If we as Christians all helped those in our local neighborhood, as well as supporting global causes like Darfur, people would see Jesus in a better light than Ted Haggard.

John Frye said...

You've written some challenging words here. Harriett Tubman is a great example of a whole gospel approach to human suffering. You are helping us reclaim the gospel of Jesus from its disfigured and reduced "modern" form. Thanks!

adam martin said...

You make a great point, allbeit a challenging one, that needs to be made. Where is the American church's concern with social justice?

Ted Gossard said...


Ted Gossard said...


Thanks for all your good thoughts. I remember you expressing something of the same, in regard to being overwhelmed, before.

No easy answers. I too feel the same way.

As in the parable of "the good Samaritan", I think we have to start with the needs that we run into, as we pursue relationships in our Christian community. It is inevitable that we'll run into special needs, here and there. And then to wisely meet them needs to be done with the wisdom of our community, I believe. I'm blessed with some of this right now, through our homegroup.


Ted Gossard said...


You bring up an excellent point. We must start at home. We should be known for our good deeds (Titus) done for others. And especially for those in need.


Ted Gossard said...


Thanks so much for your encouraging and helpful words.

Yes, she, in her faith, continues to speak to us, today.

Ted Gossard said...


Thanks for your good point and question.

We need, as the church, to be known for good works, especially for the good of those in need. This is part of the gospel that can easily be missed, if we're not reading Scripture carefully, I believe.

L.L. Barkat said...

Ted, beyond what I said before, I do actually think we have to be open to grow beyond our "capabilities." I think of the disciples who stood before the hungry crowd and asked Jesus, "but how can WE feed them?" Sometimes we've just got to be willing to be the vessel and remember he can fill us with unexpected power.

Ted Gossard said...


Great point. Those can be special seasons or a time of growth for the participants.

I'll bet Jesus' disciples never looked at life the same way afterwards. But alas. Just like us they were slow learners, it seems. When the 4,000 came along (after feeding the 5,000), they still seemed beside themselves as to what the Lord would do. Though maybe that was just an acknowledgement that they were looking to him for his answer, provision and power. And we're learning to do that.

Again, L.L., thanks. Good thought to ponder on and remember.