In these hot-house times, nothing seems to grow with greater distaste in liberal circles then the label, “evangelical Christian.”
The “evangelical” marker has become almost synonymous with a fire-breathing, judgmental, teeth-clenching horror.
That’s, in part,because evangelicals have come to be associated over the last 25 years with blowhards.
Bodies were still being recovered from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti when Pat Robertson said the country was struck because it made a “pact with the devil.”
The term evangelical has its roots in the Greek word for “gospel” or “good news“. In that sense, to be an evangelical means to be a believer of the Gospel, therefore, the message of Jesus Christ. At the risk of over simplification and a charge of arrogance, I want to argue that the Evangelical faith is nothing more or other than the historic Christian faith.
By that definition, both Pat Robertson and Martin Luther King Jr. would be considered evangelical. They both believe in the original , biblical, apostolic faith.
Yet it seems to me that the greatest need in evangelism today is the humility to let God be God.
Neither Jerry Newcombe nor Pat Robertson should be interpreting the signs of natural disaster or human-induced cataclysm. That’s God’s world. Even Jesus deferred to his Father when he said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even…the son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36)
Jesus did not respond to the religious. He loved His church but he didn’t like religion, nor those Pharisees.
The motive any evangelical should have is to concern him or herself for the glory of God, not the glory of the church or his or her own human glory. Nor is it within the right of any man, not even an evangelical (who is Bible-centered) to pass judgement as God in cataclysmic times.
The evangelical message is the gospel of God, as given by Christ and his apostles, not the traditions of men or our own opinions.
Centuries ago, serious religious study was demanding and rigorous; in contrast, anyone could declare himself a scientist and go in the business of, say, alchemy.
These days, it’s the reverse. A PHD in chemistry is a rigorous degree, while a preacher can explain the Bible on television without mastering Hebrew or Greek — or even showing interest in the nuances of the original texts.
Those self-appointed evangelical leaders come across as hypocrites, monetizing Jesus rather than emulating him. Many who claim to be “pro-life” seem little concerned with human life post-uterus. Those are the preachers who win headlines, but also disdain.
At the same time there are evangelicals who are disproportionately likely to donate part of their incomes to charities, mostly church-related. More importantly, like Martin Luther King Jr., they go to the front lines, at home or abroad, in the battles against hunger, malaria, prison rape, sex trafficking or genocide, and some of the bravest people we will ever meet are evangelical Christians (or conservative Catholics) who truly live their faith.
It saddens and sickens me to see how men use the Bible for their own glory.
Why does any of this matter?
Because people of faith and secular humanists alike do fantastic work on humanitarian issues. Unfortunately, they often don’t work together because of mutual suspicions. If we could bridge this perception issue, we would make far more progress on the world’s ills.
What is the number one “keyword” in the Bible? “Love”. I do not know how many thousands of times it is mentioned.
We Evangelicals don’t seem to lead with it.