Colossians 1:24 NRSV
I am now rejoicing in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
Somewhere along the way we got the impression that sharing the gospel with another person meant telling him or her the plan of salvation. You know what I’m talking about—telling another person the four spiritual laws or the Roman Road or drawing the famous “Bridge to Life” diagram or some other approach. Paul gives us a profound image today of what sharing the gospel means and looks like:
I am now rejoicing in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. (v. 24 NRSV)
While the gospel can never be less than recounting the story of Jesus Christ, it must be much more than this. The gospel moves on the muscles of love, and the muscles of love grow through acts of un-self-interested giving, a.k.a. suffering. By suffering, I don’t mean a grit-your-teeth-and-bea-it kind of activity but a gladly-putting-others-first kind of activity. When suffering is done with love, it does not feel like suffering but like joy. Hence, Paul rejoices!
The gospel is complete in and of itself. It is the perfect offering of the love of God for us. Though it is complete, it must be extended, and it must be extended with the same character with which it was first given. I am becoming more and more convinced that we can tell people about Jesus all day long and still not extend the gospel. Why? Because the gospel is more than simply telling people about Jesus. The gospel is more than an explanation about Jesus. It is a demonstration of Jesus. In fact, if you have to make a choice between telling someone about Jesus and showing them Jesus, you should probably do the latter. Why? Because someone may not remember what you said, but he or she will never forget what you did.
We’ve all heard the apocryphal quote oft attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel everywhere. If necessary use words.” Can we be honest? People tend to like this because they would rather avoid the awkwardness of talking about Jesus. Permit me a moment of unvarnished keeping-it-real truth-telling. The nature and character of the gospel do not tend to come through the deeds of a person who does not want to talk about Jesus. (And because I know I will be hearing from my dad about my use of the term “apocryphal,” I’ll get out in front of that by saying apocryphal means Saint Francis didn’t say it. For crying out loud, Saint Francis preached the Gospel to animals—with words!)
In summary, to share the gospel is a fully embodied act of ordinary yet supernatural love for other people. It involves our words, our deeds, our dispositions, and our overall posture and bearing toward other people. It means “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24b NRSV).
When we truly share the gospel, it always comes at a cost to ourselves, and yet it always makes us more than we were before. This is the why the power of the gospel is found only in the way of the cross.
When we get involved with Jesus, he stretches our lives in the shape of the cross. It’s why we are calling Domino #1/24 The Stretcher.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, in whose whole life we see the whole cross; in whose love we see the mystery of suffering; and in whose suffering we see our calling to live a life of self-giving love for others. Bring this truth to reality in my life. Reveal to me what holds me back. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
- What do you think of this assertion that we can tell people about Jesus all day long and not be sharing the gospel?
- What about the notion that we can do good things for people all day long and not be sharing the gospel?
- Are you uncomfortable with telling other people about Jesus? Why? What do you learn about yourself in this?
For the Awakening,
We will send a full update later this week, but here’s a short sneak peek. We are approaching $100,000 in funds received and 100% of it is being sent straight to the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary to support their extraordinary efforts on the ground to rescue the perishing, care for the dying, and otherwise carry the banner of the Kingdom of Jesus in one of the most dangerous and devastated places on the planet at this time. Did you hear that Sower Nation? Almost $100,000 so far!!! Praise God from whom all blessings flow. We will be in touch soon with some detail about how the funding is being deployed.