Friday, May 25, 2007

help others as a friend

My (blogging) friend, Bob Robinson is starting a series that considers how we approach those we would want to help bring into the kingdom of God in Jesus. I look forward to his thoughts and work on this.

He points out that we need to see people as Eikons of God, therefore special, and affirm them in that specialness. Yet at the same time they (and we) are cracked Eikons, something is wrong. And we would help them see that they can begin to realize their created potential through Christ and the new humanity in him.

I am reminded of the Reformation teaching that humans are basically good though flawed with sin, likened to a container holding water which represents the goodness from God in bearing God's image. Just a small amount of ink representing sin, dumped into the water colors the entire water. So that while we're not pure ink, as in pure sin, sin permeates and taints every part of who we are (taken and adapted from Miroslav Volf). I would have some questions about this approach that I'm confident Bob will grapple with or address in one way or another as we try to find a more Biblical, Jesus-oriented way of evangelism.

This goes for us when we try to help each other, as well. If we can only hone in on the negatives about the person we're trying to help, then it will cast doubt on our counsel. We need to see the good, acknowledge that and help them see that we ourselves have our shortcomings, and maybe right in line with their problem.

And above all we need to seek to reach out and help others as a friend. Arguably Jesus reached out to Judas right to the end, calling him, "Friend." We might not agree theologically as to all that's going on here, but I think we can agree that Jesus's approach was consistent in this way. He lived and acted as one who was seeking to save that which was lost.

What insight or story or thought might you like to add here?


Every Square Inch said...

I say this respectfully, but I do not believe that telling people that they have unrealized potential that can be fulfilled through trusting in Jesus Christ is a wise or even biblical way to approach the gospel proclamation.

It in fact, diffuses the focus of the "gospel" - the good news that Jesus dies to reconcile us to God. The reason sin is emphasized is because it is the principle problem for humanity. We are rebels against a holy God and there is a consequence to this cosmic rebellion - God's condemnation. If you lose that point, you lose the essential gospel.

The good news is that those who place their trust in Jesus Christ have their sins atoned for and are reconciled to God. That's not outdated gospel-speak, that's the authentic gospel - accept no substitutes!

Every Square Inch said...

I mean to say "Jesus died" rather than "Jesus dies"...the 's' and 'd' keys are way to close to each other. ;-)

Ted Gossard said...

ESI, I actually agree with everything you say, and I think Bob does as well.

This is not about losing one jot or tittle from Scripture either in letter or spirit. It is, in fact, perhaps, trying to steer a course that would be more Scriptural.

It would definitely not be buying into "positive thinking" or "possibility thinking".

I think it in no way differs from Scot McKnight's book, "Embracing Grace: a Gospel for all of us", nor a book on Celtic evangelism by Hunter I believe: and (sorry, I don't set this up, for those who don't know you simply copy these than paste them into the web address slot).

I await Bob's followup posts, but am confident he'll hold very squarely to the gospel as given to us from Scripture.

But if it came across from anyone in the way you describe it, than I agree, it would not be the gospel.

Thanks for sharing your true thoughts on that, and being open.

L.L. Barkat said...

Yet, treating someone as a person with great value and potential may be vital. Otherwise, we may come across as pious and disconnected. Indeed, Jesus treated people this way; then, when he'd connected to them he went forward with the truth, in grace.

Ted Gossard said...

L.L., Yes. Well put.

It's not at all to take any line away from the book of Romans or any other place. We are lost and ruined by the Fall. Yet we're also still special in being made in God's image. Though we need to be remade through Christ to counter our falleness away from (but not bereft of) the image of God.

I agree. And we're after all on the same level. We're all in need of God's grace always. Though I believe positionally in Christ we are in God's saving grace in a way that others outside of Christ are not. Yet we're just as in need of grace as anyone of course.

And grace and truth must end up always accompanying each other in the work of God.

I know you know all this, but just thinking out loud. And I look forward to thinking through the point Bob is making, and finding out how he will work through it.


Bob Robinson said...

every square inch and Ted,

I think that I am an evangelist at heart. In my constant engagements with people in our post-Christian culture, I've found that the tact of starting with people's sin cuts me off at the knees. I get nowhere.

Instead, I find that if I begin with appreciative inquiry, asking affirming questions about what they see as good and beautiful and just, I can move people along into the questions of what is evil and ugly and sinful.

This though, is not just another tactic. It springs from a gospel understanding that starts first with the goodness of Creation, the essential nature of humanity (that we are created in the image of God), and the "good news" of redemption and restoration.

It starts with the resurrection picture and then moves backwards to the cross picture. You can't have one without the other, but we can certainly start people out understanding that which gives life before we discuss that which is killing us!

Ted Gossard said...

Bob, That approach sounds solid and good to me. It does remind me of Paul at Athens. He appealed to them from creation and affirmed what was good and right in reference to them and their religion.

Surely our approach must be flexible according to the people we are trying to reach while at the same time reflecting the good news of life in Jesus in view of the death lived out by us. You state this so much better, and I look forward to your unfolding of it on your blog.


Every Square Inch said...


Thanks for your comments...I look forward to learning more. The initial questions I wonder about -

How is God's holiness depicted to the unbeliever?
How is his/her personal sin against this Holy God brought to bear in the discussion?

I think both points are pivotal and essential