The Neglected Command of the Church: Prophetic Engagement

So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. — Colossians 1:28

One of the major trademarks of evangelical Christianity is that it takes seriously Jesus’s command to make disciples and announce the Good News of the gospel to the world (Matt. 28:19–20).[1]

This feature of Evangelical Christianity is inseparable from another major trademark of Evangelicalism and that is the belief that salvation comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is, it is not just knowing about Jesus that saves, but actually knowing him and walking in love and obedience with him daily.

Add to this that when we have the love of God burning inside, we can’t help but share that love with others. We not only take on faith in Jesus, but we take on the burden of Jesus to see the lost saved.

As these two elements tend to dominate the caricature-like features of Evangelicalism, there is another element that tends to slip into the background which is equally important and that is prophetic engagement. That is, as Christians, we are to seriously engage the command to be light in a dark world. This is a hard, but necessary calling.

It’s a truism to say that Jesus was and is a controversial figure. People tend to either love Him, or hate Him. This makes sense, because on the one hand, He said things that people loved. He talked about forgiveness, love, and the wonderful mercy of God.

On the other hand, he made others furious by upholding values that went against the cultural and religious grain of the day. Jesus had no shortage of enemies. Ultimately, He was so controversial that it got him killed.

If Jesus’s full obedience to God turned the world upside down, then I think it’s safe to assume that our full obedience to God will also turn our world upside down.

The short of it is that when we obey, people will be upset.

In other words, I believe the Bible teaches that it is impossible to be true to the teachings of Jesus and be liked by everyone. In fact, Jesus said, “What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds” (Luke 6:26).

Can you remember the last time people were upset with you because of your faithfulness to Jesus?

As Christians, we carry the burden of proclaiming and living out truth in a world set against us. This is what Jesus means when he says, “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matt. 5:15–16).

Like Jesus, we carry on the responsibility to boldly uphold values that go against the cultural grain (see the story in Mark 2:23–28 as an example). Like the prophets, the Church is the not only the place where the love of God touches the world, but it is also the place where the exhorting, correcting, and rebuking voice of God resounds against the chaos of contradiction and lies in human culture.

This IS what it means to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:19–20).

Are you prepared to respond to this command? Be strong and courageous (Josh. 1). There is no courage without an element of fear and risk.

Are you ready to stomach the reality that true faithfulness to Jesus results in having enemies? Is obedience to Jesus and the call to holiness worth it (Lk. 14:25–33)?

Be comforted, for Jesus also says,

God blessed those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blessed you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way (Matt. 5:10–12).

[1] Taking seriously this command is merely an extension of taking seriously the Scriptures to begin with.

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