Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Salvation, Gospel, and Evangelism Without Repentance

When people talk about salvation, the Gospel, and evangelism, repentance is almost always central. Along the lines of the morality discussions from the last couple of days, repentance is a good thing. We need to recognize where we've screwed up so we can rectify that and grow.

However, I'm coming to realize that one can evangelize without emphasizing repentance. As I have discussed over the last couple of days, the Christian life is not about repenting of sin and becoming "holy" (i.e. pure). Rather it is about becoming holy by coming close to God through Christ.

That includes repentance and morality, but does not necessarily start nor end with it. It starts and ends with desire and love for Christ. Yet so often salvation, the Gospel, and evangelism begin and end with "Repent!" and give a cursory nod to love of and for God.

The problem is that most people I know already know how and that they have screwed up. They don't need to be reminded of that. Having God shame us and beat us up even more is not helpful. (No, I don't believe God does this, but that is the message I always get from the message people discuss of repentance.)

I thought I was not big on evangelism because I'm not big on shaming people more. And the centrality of repentance has never felt right to me. These were thoughts I had while listening to an audiobook version of Blue Like Jazz (review forthcoming).

Then I read a Celtic prayer book my wife got me for my birthday. And I realized that I actually am quite passionate about evangelism. My passion is for emphasizing the journey of faith. It's about telling people about transformation that is possible in relationship. It's about finding Truth through struggle. If I didn't have that passion, I would not be maintaining this blog or doing many other things I do.

I believe a lot of other people have a passion for evangelism but have been shamed into believing they are not evangelists because they are not telling people they suck but God loves them anyway. How different would the face of Christianity and the world be if we included repentance as a natural step in the path of faith rather than a shaming gate?

I think this is where repentance can be quite helpful: Not in telling people they suck (since most know that already), but that they need to rely on God to help with their suckiness. I think that's where a lot of us falter, even after our initial "repentance." Reliance on God and walking with him is central to the Christian faith journey. And trying to go it alone is where the central sin is, I think...


  1. Good thoughts! The paragraph (the one that begins with the reference to the Celtic prayer book) is one of the best definitions of evangelism I've read.

    I think the core of your last few posts is that life with God is not about all the things one could feel or do even if God was not a part of the picture. A person can be the Travelocity of guilt trips without God in the picture anywhere. Lots of lectures and rules about behavior are equally possible without God. We can definitely find ways to beat up on ourselves even if there isn't a well-meaning Christian with tract in hand to confront us with our sinfulness.

    But a journey filled with heart and passion and a realization that the same man who walked with two disciples on the Emmaus will also walk with us? That takes a living God and risen Lord. I think if we can that part right whatever else need to happen to create the climate for our growth and transformation will happen in a natural and organic fashion.


  2. Amen to that! Thanks so much for your comment!



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