“I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord Savior, but I’m also a killer. I’ve killed a lot. And if I need to, I’ll kill a whole bunch more.”
So sayeth likely soon-to-be-former St. Louis County Officer Dan Page, recently kicked off the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. He’s a self-described zealot of a number of causes – prime among them the Christian faith, and the co-mingling of bizarre interpretations of scripture and a hateful world view have put him at odds with, well, just about everybody.
It doesn’t matter, though – the damage is done. When people not familiar with Christianity hear statements like these, they think they are hearing words from an official spokesman for the Gospel – words that represent the world view of Jesus, the Church and my faith. And thus, me. As a fervent, on-fire believer, let me say plain and loud: THEY DO NOT.
To my frustration and pain, it’s no wonder, then, that there’s a growing backlash against believers in our increasingly pluralistic society. These statements keep people out of churches and away from Bibles. Ironically, that leaves other church people – the ones that people work with and who live in their neighborhoods – and not the ones on TV and quoted in the newspapers – as the only gospel. In this respect, we make up the Fifth Gospel, if you will – after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But with Bible literacy low even amongst evangelicals, we frankly might be the only gospel that most people will ever encounter.
Witnesses like Dan Page, or like the two or three families that make up Westboro Baptist Church, represent apostasy in the church. If they are within the body at all – I say that they are not, but their self-professions say they are – it’s impossible to square this circle by the standards set by Jesus. Standards:
- that put grace and mercy before judgment;
- that direct forgiveness; and
- that encapsulate all Old Testament law in the two commands of “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:36-39, New International Version
With new and even more bizarre headlines swirling around us daily, it’s rather a miracle to see true Fifth Gospel examples among us – and even in the national and international media – as witnessed by their deeds and words. Read on for a few passages from these new gospels:
The Book of James Foley
“We appreciate the tremendous number of prayers we have received and Jimmy received … Jimmy said he could feel the prayers. His strength came from God.” – Parents of American journalist James Foley, following his beheading by ISIS terrorists.
The Book of Dr. Kent Brantly:
“Through the care of Samaritan’s Purse and SIM missionary team in Liberia, the use on an experimental drug, and the expertise and resources of the Emory University Hospital, God saved my life,” said Dr. Kent Brantly, adding that his recovery is “a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers.” – Dr. Brantly is a medical missionary who contracted – and then survived – the deadly Ebola virus.
The Book of the Borderland Samaritans
While our nation debates laws and policies and tries to figure out how to address the issue of tens of thousands of minor-aged illegal immigrants crossing into our country each year, private citizens who live on the southern borderlands each night set out water and nourishment, not to aid and abet criminals, but to show mercy and compassion – and to perhaps save a life – of these widows and orphans and aliens among us. Human to human, it’s just the right thing to do. But regardless of your political affiliation, it’s also what we’ve been directed to do. Plain enough for me.
Praisefully, there are dozens of other examples, though many don’t make it into the media like these have, and thus, it’s easy to see only our fallen world and to miss out on all the miracles that occur within it. In seeing just these few in the past days, I’m personally challenged to try to be more like these modern-day disciples. Let us ignore the speck in our brother’s eye and work to remove the planks from our own. In this, we might best reach all of the world for Him!
The Church in the News offers short reactions and critical thoughts about mass media coverage of matters of contemporary church, faith and culture.