“How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man on a cross? I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic [explanation] of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it … Jesus, as I said earlier, did not write a book but formed a community … Insofar as it is true to its calling, it becomes the place where men and women and children find that the gospel gives them the framework of understanding, the “lenses” through which they are able to understand and cope with the world.”
– Lesslie Newbigin
This is a simple quote, but it says a great deal.
It rightly assumes a searching world, longing for answers and purpose. It assumes a natural skepticism, that a crucified man two-thousand years ago has any bearing on life today, that his followers are anything but hypocritical and delusional.
It suggests that the Christian community not only believes that Jesus is relevant today, but that he is in fact “the last word in human affairs”, that he is savior to all and king over all of life. It suggests that it is through Jesus that we understand the world, that he is the key, that the good news of the gospel is somehow the true story of the whole world.
It suggests that the Christian community has a calling. The church exists because of, and for, God’s redemptive plan. This is its identity and purpose. It speaks to the reciprocal nature of belief and action, the truth that our beliefs fuel our actions and our actions validate (or explain) our beliefs. It rightly places the interplay of belief and action in community, as opposed to autonomous personal experience. We learn from each other and teach each other. Our actions bear on one another.
It suggests that it is the faithful presence of the believing community, full of integrity in their belief and action, that opens imaginations to the truth and beauty of Christ, validating the Gospel’s claim to all of life. It suggests that this believing community is welcoming to all – inviting men, women, and children to new life in Christ. Finally, it is within this community that the searching world finds what it is looking for.
This gives us our direction.