newbigginWe are all, in some measure, both oppressors and oppressed. The gospel, the good news with which we are charged, is that the reign of God, present in Jesus, has brought us all together under judgment and has in the same act brought us all together under blessing. In the presence of the cross there are no innocent parties. In its presence we know that we are all together guilty and yet all together forgiven, loved, set free. The good news is that we are liberated, and it is out of that actually given liberation that our actions for justice and mercy flow.

When the message of the kingdom of God is separated from the name of Jesus two distortions follow, and these are in fact the source of deep divisions in the life of the church today. On the one hand, there is the preaching of the name of Jesus simply as the one who brings a religious experience of personal salvation without involving one in costly actions at the points in public life where the power of Satan is contradicting the rule of God and bringing men and women under the power of evil. Such preaching of cheap grace, of a supposed personal salvation that does not go the way of the cross, of an inward comfort without commitment to costly action for the doing of God’s will in the world – this kind of evangelistic preaching is a distortion of the gospel. It is seductive, and we must be on our guard against it. A preaching of personal salvation that does not lead the hearers to challenge the monstrous injustices of our society is not mission in Christ’s way. It is peddling cheap grace.

On the other hand, when the message of the kingdom is separated from the name of Jesus, then the action of the church in respect of the evils in society becomes a mere ideological crusade, inviting men and women to put their trust in that which cannot satisfy. It is to betray people with false expectations. Worse than that, it is to deliver people into the hands of demonic powers, for whenever a particular people or social programme is identified with the kingdom of God, those who follow become the victims of forces that they cannot control. We have seen that in every revolution from the French Revolution two hundred years ago to Ayatollah Khomeni’s revolution today.

To separate Jesus from the kingdom, to preach Jesus without the kingdom, or to preach the kingdom without Jesus, is to betray our generation and it is to divide and destroy the church. The gospel is this: that in the man of Jesus the kingdom has actually come among us in judgment and blessing. It is now the reality with which we have to deal – whether in our most private devotions or in our most public actions in the life of society.”

Mission in Christ’s Way by Lesslie Newbigin