Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Building Relationships Like Jesus: a Review of "Bold as Love"

 Over the past five years or so, two men have influenced my understanding of missions and cultural engagement.  One of those men is long-dead, the other still alive and kicking, and living what he preaches in a big time way!

The dead guy of which I speak is Abraham Kuyper.  Kuyper was a 19th and early 20th century Dutch Reformed theologian and pastor, but was also a politician, journalist and statesman who served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901 to 1905.  His influence even after his death was long felt among the Dutch, and his ideas about "sphere sovereignty" forwarded the notion that education, business, the press, the arts, and science are areas created by God with their own unique purpose of bringing glory to Him, and thus has its own created integrity.  

Practically applied, "sphere sovereignty" means that every sector of society, like the human beings which make up those sectors, is created in the image and likeness of God, and simultaneously fallen in sin.  Thus, Jesus is determined, not only to bring individuals to salvation, but to redeem and proclaim His Lordship over every area and domain of society.  Reading and grasping these concepts over the past five years has revolutionized the way I view missions and how the Great Commission mandate is to be accomplished.  In particular, it was Kuyper's book "Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art" that turned my world upside down!

One guy who is living out this vision is my friend Bob Roberts, and Bob has just written a new book entitled "Bold As Love."  The book recounts many of Bob's own experiences in seeking to engage the world, and in particular, those in the world who adhere to faiths other than Christianity.  I've spoken much recently to my own efforts at engaging, in particular, Muslim peoples, who have in turn invited me into their lives, and Bob has been a great teacher and encourager during this period.

The primary thesis of the book is, quite simply, that Jesus meant what He said when He called us to love our neighbor.  If Christians are to faithfully engage the world, such action will also mean engagement with the faiths of the world, and the people who adhere to them--people that we believe Jesus died to save.  Apologetics are important, as is the accurate and faithful proclamation of our message.  But these mean very little unless we are willing to do what Jesus did--incarnate ourselves among people and live with them in friendship.  Bob's book teaches the reader how to do this using the best educational approach I know--example!

This isn't a book that encourages abandonment of faith.  It is about living your faith in a way that vindicates the truth of its promise to redeem.  Its a book about building relationships in the face of fear.  Its a book about listening to the hearts of those who believer differently so we can understand and walk in friendship. 

The evangelical church in the west is--on this issue--at a very critical crossroad.  The United States is more diverse than it has ever been in our history, and we are surrounded by people from nearly every walk of life, and by adherents to nearly every religion that exists in the world.  In short, God has brought the nations to our front door, and we can only react in one of two ways: in fear, or in faith.  Bob illustrates this contrast in vivid detail as he recounts how people at his own church reacted to their attempts at building bridges with the Muslim community:

When we began to have Muslims come to our church, many of our members were fearful that we would be blown up.  Some left, most stayed, and all received according to what they sowed.  Those who sowed fear still live in fear and want others to live in fear.  Those who sowed bold love have built friendships and serve as bridges for others to cross over.

I believe in the message of the Bible and thus, don't believe God has given us a spirit of fear. (2 Timothy 1:7)  So be brave in your engagement.  Be bold in your love.  Honor Jesus in the way that you honor and befriend those He created in His image, and whom He died to save.  And if you are looking for greater encouragement to do so, or some practical examples of what this looks like, pick up my friend Bob's new book, Bold as Love.

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