Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Compelled

All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. Psalm 86:9

Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! I Corinthians 9:16



Around this time each of the 4 years I was in college, my campus would come under siege as Brother Jed and Sister Cindy set up their annual Spring Hatemongering Tour of Midwestern Learning Institutions on the steps of the student union. (They also conducted an annual Fall Hatemongering Tour.) From that superb location, the two self-proclaimed “confrontational evangelists” would berate us with vicious tirades—ugly words meant to provoke the expanding crowd of students who would gather for the entertainment value of the harangues. The two would engage in a kind of tag team ritual where they would take turns shrieking at us, calling us names I don’t like to repeat, labeling us with stereotypes I don’t like to promote, and unwaveringly condemning us to Hell. (If you want specifics, see the Wikipedia entry called “Brother Jed.”) The performance always horrified me.

These days I’m a preacher myself--and a writer as well--who seeks earnestly to be faithful to God’s leading as I’ve come to know it by following Jesus Christ. I think I have a good sense of what Paul means when he speaks of being compelled to preach the gospel. It’s just not possible to take this calling lightly. And yet I find myself wondering about Brother Jed and Sister Cindy and others who bear strong messages. Are they not also compelled to deliver what it is they deliver?

Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! But woe to me as well if I ever mutilate its message when I do! Even if we are both compelled—somehow—by the same Lord, I would be mortified if anyone ever mistook my approach to faith with Brother Jed’s!

What is essentially different about our approaches? It has to do with how we follow the instruction to not just preach, but to preach the gospel. Gospel means good news. Hopeful news. Buoyant, expectant, promising news. Gospel good news is about eradicating fear, not stirring it into a frenzy. Gospel good news teaches that the love of God as we come to understand it through Jesus is welcoming and hospitable and enormous and without fail.

There are a lot of voices out there in our noisy, chattering world. From what I hear, Brother Jed still runs a roadshow, but there are plenty of others who command negative attention as well. Some call themselves various types of evangelists. Some just call themselves broadcasters these days. As such voices are raised in ways that contradict Jesus’ message of selfless love in exchange for some kind of selfish gain, I will be compelled to preach and write and in all ways convey an opposite understanding.

4 comments:

  1. Good - Good News reminder today... compelled to read it... and to share it!!!

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  2. YOU are a compelling preach, my friend. And your approach is far from the traveling roadshow you speak of. Love, acceptance, and grace ooze from your pours as sweet as honey from the comb.

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  3. Thank you, dear readers. Feeling blessed.

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  4. OMG those characters used to come to UW Madison, as well. All I remember about them is they seemed weird and yes, confrontational. It takes a lot of courage to do what they did, but hmmmm something wasn't quite right about their approach, eh?

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