An Activist Gospel - Bob Sawvelle

Are you an activist? A better question might be, “Are you an activist for Jesus?” One morning recently the Lord spoke to me about how Jesus was an “activist” in his culture. The gospel Jesus preached was an activist gospel. Sometimes the word activism or activist can have negative or political connotations, but the true definition of activism is:

a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue (emphasis mine).

When Jesus introduced Christianity to the world, He certainly brought a controversial and radical way of looking at religion. Nothing has changed about the gospel—true Christianity is still just as radical today as it was in the beginning. Jesus came and upset a system of religious tradition, void of love and lacking the heart of God.

However, Jesus also taught a Christianity filled with action, where His disciples walked in the works of the Father, and did what was on the Father’s heart.

Who is My Neighbor?

Recall the conversation with the lawyer who asked what he should do to inherit eternal life. (Luke 10) Jesus answers the lawyer by asking what the Law stated:

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:26-29 NLT, emphasis mine)

Jesus answered this next question by telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a story where a man was attacked by bandits and left for dead. A priest passes by, as well as a Levite, (two religious men) and neither of the men stop to help.

Finally, a Samaritan came and had compassion on the man. He bandaged his wounds and brought him to an inn, paying the bill. He showed compassion and took care of the man in an active, practical manner.

Jesus continues in verse 36:

So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Faith without Works

Paul makes it clear in his writings, that we are “justified,” or made in right standing with God, through our faith in Christ. Salvation is a gift in Christ. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT) Simply stated, we cannot “earn salvation” through human effort, we are saved through faith in Christ.

But the bible also tells us that there is an action to our faith—it is an activist gospel. James says it best in James 2:14-26, “Faith, without works, is dead.” The proof of your faith in Christ is a life transformed by the Holy Spirit—bearing fruit and good works. Your new life in Christ creates a desire to walk faithfully with Him and carry His love and compassion to others. We certainly don’t want to present a dead faith before the Lord when we stand before Him!

An Activist Gospel

Jesus wants us to have an activist mindset in the Kingdom. His gospel is one of action. Having mercy on the poor. Tending to orphans and widows. Making disciples of all the nations. Healing the sick, cleansing the lepers… walking in all He taught. This is the way we partner with God to further the Kingdom!

We are to be an activist people where our way of life creates opposition to a worldly status quo. He has called us to be loving and humble, yes, but our action is contrary to the world’s ways. We are not to compromise the Kingdom message in any way. Instead, we must be led by the Spirit so His Kingdom can come and His will can be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

To do this requires something: complete surrender to Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit. It’s a radical gospel—an activist gospel. The early church impacted the Roman Empire through radical acts of service—despite prolonged periods of persecution and martyrdom for many. Ramsay MacMullen, in his book, “Christianizing the Roman Empire: A.D. 100-400,” explains that his research concludes the Roman Empire became Christian primarily because Christians healed the sick, delivered the demonized, and ministered to the poor.

When the Church goes to the least and hurting, with the love, compassion, and power of Christ, the world is impacted. It is an activist gospel, fueled by love for Christ and empowered by the power of the Holy Spirit. Who can you reach today with God’s love and compassion?

Father, I pray that you would renew our love for Jesus and for the world. That you would empower us Holy Spirit to leave the comfort of our homes and churches, to reach into the margins of society, with the message and acts of Jesus. That our faith would be demonstrated by our works, and many would come to know of your goodness!

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Bob Sawvelle

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