The Greatest Demonstration of the Gospel's Power
It seems like not a day goes by without at least one report of violence in some part of the world. To be honest, it’s wearisome, and it’s discouraging.
This may be a little outdated, but I’m reminded of the movie “Miss Congeniality” about an FBI agent played by Sandra Bullock going undercover in the Miss USA pageant. In one scene, the contestants are asked, “What’s the most important thing our society needs?” And each of the other contestants, one after another, comically says, “World peace,” and the crowd cheers every time.
Everyone wants world peace. Everyone wants people to just get along with each other and live in harmony together. But to be honest, I’m not sure we’re making any progress in our quest for world peace.
Let’s not forget that two of the deadliest wars in history, World War I and World War II, took place within the past 100 years. World War II alone took the lives of between 65 and 80 million people. It seems like the more advanced and more educated civilization becomes, the better we become at killing people.
But I also believe that that desire we have for world peace and harmony is our hearts for a reason. I believe it’s there because God put it there. Something within us instinctively knows that conflict just isn’t right.
But what we need to understand is that only God can actually bring about that kind of peace.
Ephesians 2:11-18 explains how Jesus has brought together two groups of people—Jews and Gentiles—that used to be deeply divided. Verse 14 states that “[Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”
Then, in verses 19-22, Paul uses three metaphors to describe the church. First, he describes us as “fellow citizens,” that is, citizens of the kingdom of God. Second, as “members of the household of God,” or members of the same spiritual family. And third, as different stones that come together to make up “a holy temple in the Lord.”
We’re God’s kingdom, God’s family, and God’s temple. What does this mean?
God has designed the church to be a community of people where individuals who are significantly different from one another come together. And as they come together, they display the power of the gospel in a unique way. They demonstrate that the gospel has given them an identity that runs deeper than any other identity they have.
All of the things that make us different like race, income, culture, life experiences and everything else all fade into the background, and we’re able to live in unity because Jesus brings us together.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s never been to church and is slightly skeptical about Christianity. How do you think they might respond if a Christian said to them, “Jesus has changed my life”? What would they think? How might they respond?
I think for many non-Christians, it would be kind of like someone coming up to them and saying, “Hey look, I’ve been eating these magical beans, and they’ve changed my life.”
Now, that might seem like a silly comparison to you, but I think that’s really the way many non-Christians think. Our society as a whole is very skeptical towards Christianity. Christianity has about as much credibility to them as magical beans.
So, play along with me here. Put yourself in their place. How would you respond if someone said, “I’ve been eating these magical beans, and they’ve changed my life”? Personally, I might smile and say, “Hey, that’s great,” but I wouldn’t take it that seriously.
But let’s say the person had a life that I found very attractive. I observed them in different situations giving honest answers even when they could have lied and made their life a lot more convenient. I observed them helping other people and being generous towards them even when those people were in no position to return the favor. I observed them demonstrating love towards people even when people did them wrong. And I just observed a joy and gladness within them that’s sort of mysterious and difficult to put into words.
And so, if a person has a life like that, and they come up to me and say, “Hey look, I’ve been eating these magical beans, and they’ve changed my life,” I’m going to think about it a little bit. I’m going to ask myself, “Could it be that these beans really do have magical powers?” And it’s at least going to arouse my curiosity, even if I don’t actually try the beans.
Now, if I’m going through an exceptionally difficult time in life, I might get desperate enough to try the beans, but under normal circumstances, I’m probably going to conclude that my friend is just a really great person who has exceptional character and a phenomenal personality, and he just thinks that those beans he’s eating are magical and are making him the way he is. But in reality, he’d still be that way even without the beans.
But let’s say that there wasn’t just one bean-eater living an incredibly attractive life. Let’s say there was an entire community of bean-eaters, and they all had lives unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
And they didn’t just exhibit their character qualities individually. No, they really loved each other and cared for each other and enjoyed such a unity in their group that made me want what they had. It’s almost like something brought them together like a family—something powerful that I had never experienced before and wasn’t quite sure what it could be.
I don’t know about you, but that would probably convince me to at least try these so-called magical beans. Even if the idea of magical beans seemed silly to me at first, I would probably at least try them if I saw a group of people living that way.
If you’ve truly been saved, your life has been changed by something far superior to some kind of magical bean. And Jesus calls you to gather together with other believers and exhibit a new kind of unity that’s vastly superior to anything else in the world.
What does that mean? That means pursuing meaningful relationships with other Christians who are a lot different than you.
Church should be a place where rich and poor, African, Asian and European, college graduates and high school dropouts all come together and don’t just exchange polite greetings on Sundays but have deep and meaningful relationships throughout the week. That shows the power of the gospel.
And that also means when other Christians get on your nerves, you’re able to love them then as well. You know, all this talk about unity sounds like a wonderful idea that everyone should be able to get on board with…until someone in the church actually does something against you. It will happen. Just expect it. We’re all still dealing with sin. Someone in the church will commit a wrong against you or say something that offends you or maybe sometimes just rub you the wrong way. Will you choose to demonstrate the power of the gospel by forgiving that person just like God forgave you?