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Gospel Culture

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Shame, Fear, Pride... And the Gospel

History tells us that whenever there are results on a large scale, there is shame, fear, and/or pride involved as the primary motivator. All except for the early Christians who were motivated by the gospel, the good news that brought rich and poor, outwardly and inwardly broken, and Jews and Gentiles together despite harsh persecution. Suddenly, the “sinners” could break bread with the “religious.” Shame had been broken. When persecution occurred, Christians rejoiced “…in the hope of the glory of God” Romans 5:2 (NIV). They had been set free from fear. Centuries of traditions of ethnocentrism that created divisions between race, socioeconomic class, and gender suddenly didn’t matter under Jesus Christ as their head (Galatians 3:28). Pride no longer controlled their actions.

If shame, fear, and pride are all things that entered this world as a result of disobedience to God (sin), then how can they be the way to the gospel? The answer is they cannot. As we saw in the early Christian church, the gospel was meant to shatter such things that have strongholds in our lives.

And so for practical purposes, if we wanted to commence a church giving campaign to feed the hungry children in Africa, what would that look like? Well, if the results are all we really care about, here are the quickest ways to get them:

Shame-based motivation would say something like, “We aren’t doing enough as Christians! We simply need to do more! We have so much and they have so little, how can we just sit here on our comfortable chairs and do absolutely nothing while these poor children starve? We need to give now!”

Fear-based motivation may go something like this, “When we get to the gates of heaven and see the face of God, aren’t you worried about what you’ll say when He asks you what you’ve done for Him? We need to help feed these poor children so that you can confidently tell God that you did His work when you see Him face to face!”

 Pride-based motivation may possibly say, “Let’s be the church that actually makes a difference in this world, let’s lead the way! Let’s show others how it’s done so that when they see our church they’ll be amazed at all the good work we’re doing for God’s kingdom!”

But gospel-based motivation is unlike any of these three, because the church-wide results may actually not set in as quickly. You see, to be motivated by the gospel, one cannot just have some transient moment of shame, fear, or pride, but he/she must be genuinely transformed by a message such as this, “See these poor starving children? What we need to realize is that because of sin, we were once poor and starving spiritually and destined for death as our punishment. But Jesus Christ had tremendous compassion on us, he picked us up out of our own helplessness, and because of his (undeserved) love we are now clothed with royalty. That is why we should now have compassion on others. Let’s help these poor children because he has first helped us!”

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