An Anglican School ethos firestorm swept its way across Sydney during the last week creating confusion, chaos and crankiness. To be clear, the issue at stake is freedom – the freedom any organisation should have to act according to its principles. But Christians, Christianity, Jesus and the church have all become victims of the outrage.
Now before you throw your hands in the air, shout “typical” and become outraged at the outrage, keep in mind that Christians are not the only ones who become victims of outrage and note the irony in outraging against outrage. There must be a better way of responding!
In the midst of such a firestorm we usually either return serve or retreat. I want to suggest another way.
Ed Stetzer, an American writer and researcher helped me see John 20 as a great paradigm for our response. John is describing the days after the crucifixion when the disciples feared the world. Were they to be next to be hung on a cross? Would they be a laughing stock? The world was outraged, they were terrified. Jesus turns up and says, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
Jesus didn’t go sit in the locked room with the disciples to make them feel better. He went in to get them out, to get them on mission, to send them into the chaos and anger from which they had locked themselves away.
But he does not send them to shout in outrage, he sends them to proclaim the Gospel. In the same way, the outraged world does not need us to argue with them. The outraged world needs us to evangelise them. They need to know Jesus and our task in the present is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day with our Christian life in a constant state of worship and mission.
Spurgeon said that Christians who do not engage the world with the Gospel are like those who have a treasure but hold onto it. “The world is starving and they hoard the bread of life.” Hearts that do not bring Christ to the world prove they do not actually love Christ. “If they love Christ they must love sinners; if they love Jesus they must seek to extend his Kingdom!”
We are not commissioned to retreat into our buildings to form holy huddles and talk about the good old days. We live in a broken and fragmented world in need of the Gospel; and the God who did not spare his own Son for us has given us a mission focused on the outraged.
Outraging against outrage and retreating from outrage are not Gospel options. Proclaiming the Gospel is what is needed. We’ll think about how to do that over the next few weeks.