Jesus Christ, the Lord of Creation, Redemption, and Fulfillment, calls the church the salt and light of the world. Jesus seems to have had in mind a community engaged in vigorous, self-sacrificing mission that goes to great lengths to enact costly love, that inconveniences itself regularly to seek justice for the oppressed, that creatively serves the forgotten, all to portray that the kingdom of God is at hand.
…We have to give up the small gospel that simply confirms what C. S. Lewis called “our congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.” The freedom of grace grants us many gifts, including that there is “therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). This assurance of grace is meant to set us on the road of faithful discipleship, not just to assure us of grace at the finish line. Such freedom enables Christ’s disciples to love because we have first been loved (1 John 4:19). The grace that settles our account with God is meant to set us free from self-interest for the sake of loving others with abandon.
The apparent smallness of our gospel is directly related to the smallness of the church’s love. When prominent Christian voices call for protests and boycotts over things like our freedom to say “Merry Christmas,” the gospel seems very small indeed. If, by contrast, such voices called the church in America to give away its Christmas billions to the poor and needy around the world—as an act of incarnational love—that would leave a very different impression of the faith we profess, and offer a far greater hope for a love-hungry world.
It would be a new day for our testimony to the immensity and scope of the gospel if we lived out persevering, sacrificial love for people near and far, especially for those without power, without money, without education, without food, without sanitation, without safety, without faith. If this counterintuitive, servant love moved us out of our middle-class enclaves, drew the poor to be included in our family values, brought us to worry more about the need for consumption of those who have nothing than the consumptive fantasies of those who have too much, the gospel would be more nearly the life-enlarging gift it is.
(Mark Labberton, The Lima Bean Gospel)