Spring is here and one of my favorite things to do is go after weeds with my weed eater. I hate pulling weeds. I also hate killing weeds with weed killer because it makes much of my yard brown, not green. Most of my yard is not actually grass. I will just say right up front that I am more interested in a green front yard than I am with a grass-weed distinction. I don’t have time for making sure my front yard is pure grass; but I have time to make weeds resemble grass. I basically maintain the color green so that my neighbors might think I’m somewhat responsible.
Similar to the way many would not be convinced that I am really dealing with my weed problem by cutting stems, I am not convinced that the purpose of the gospel is to save me or get me to heaven. I’m not convinced that the purpose of the gospel is even directed at sin in and of itself. Sin is simply the flowering head of evil. Our moral and natural problem as image bearers is not one of sin, but evil. I think The gospel’s first purpose is to comprehensively, ruthlessly and effectively address the problem of evil.
Perhaps we experience difficulty in our churches seeing a true manifestation of the kingdom of God because we misunderstand the purpose of the gospel. In the same way I use a weed eater to avoid dealing with the weed problem, as evangelicals, we might be using the gospel to avoid dealing with the evil problem. Jesus is at work in the soil first, not the surface. He is changing the makeup of the soil so that new things will grow and old things will die. Jesus’ person and work is a proclamation and a hope amid sin’s proof of evil, not a tool to piously cover up reality. The gospel is at work where evil seeds are ready to germinate into sin’s many manifestations. Slowly, progressively and completely, the actual Jesus-inaugurated kingdom of God is growing deep in the soil. Not just the surface, not just the color, and not just in people, but all of creation. I want to proclaim its power and invite people to a life lived in its hope. I love that! I live for that.
It seems to me, and I am interested in what you think, that when we hang our whole identity on issues of moral sin as evangelicals we are really missing out on an opportunity to proclaim a deeper hope to our weed-eater world. We really look foolish when we try to maintain an image rather than reality. God wants everyone who is thirsty to come and be changed, not just in appearance, but progressively, comprehensively and completely restored as children of the king… that’s reality. It seems like we are offering a weed-eater Jesus to people in our churches so they can escape the appearance of having weeds. A Jesus that deals well with sin, but poorly with evil. We are more interested in surface appearance than soil and roots. As a result, we have people blind to their own evil using the gospel to actually try and convince the world that they no longer have a sin problem. We really need to see the bigger picture here. Perhaps we can take this opportunity to show the world just how deep, rich and robust our good news is, rather than how good we are. Perhaps some of us can work to see past weeds and look to the kingdom-work germinating deep within a person who hears the gospel and comes thirsty for restoration, reconciliation and true deep lasting change. Our gospel addresses the problem of evil first, not sin. We now live in the tension of watching the kingdom overcome this world and not just in color! I want to be more concerned with proclaiming the true Gospel that reminds people like me that evil will not be able to germinate in my soil much longer soon I will be completely free.