This report comes from Jim King, pastor of Parkway Baptist Church, Duluth, Ga.
The parable Jesus told about the separation of sheep from goats (Matthew 25:31-46) seems to me to be the critical passage for assessing our faithfulness to the gospel. We may be saved by grace but we validate our acceptance of that gift by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. I doubt that Jesus meant the list to be exhaustive but it does represent the acts by which we demonstrate our willingness to follow Christ.
I have come to realize, however, that it is possible to fulfill this expectation “to the least of these” without ever mentioning the name of Jesus. When we can, letting people know that we are ministering in Jesus’ name may lead to conversation that may then lead to conversion. However, the element of judgment is clearly based on what we do and not what we say.
This point was driven home for me last month when I visited CBF field personnel in Southeast Asia. They labor under strictures to witnessing that make the overt evangelism we usually associate with missionaries impossible. And yet, I was privileged to watch them share the gospel in profound ways that left me firmly convinced that they will be numbered among the sheep who hear the “Well done” with which Jesus concluded his parable. Even though the people with whom they work know these good people are Christians they are prohibited by law from proselytizing. Still the message comes across. The love they show, the kindnesses they extend, the differences they make in the lives of people in great need all convey the love of Jesus. At every possible opportunity I am sure they share their own faith. But I am convinced that, even if that opportunity never arises, they have fulfilled Christ’s expectation. I’m happy to have the chance to support them in their work. I also hope I can be as faithful in sharing the good news – both in word and deed – as they are in much harder circumstances.
Good morning Jim.
I appreciate greatly the emphasis you make in your article. We share the gospel so little in what we do as well as what we say.
We have scripture that emphasizes our giving a cup of water in Jesus’ name. Just what may be appropriate always to say and how is important. But too often the gospel becomes, “Aren’t you so nice.”
Eldon Trueblood warns that we be careful giving only cut flowers.
But again your emphasis on living the evidence of the good news is sorely needed.
Great piece, Jim! I’m reminded of the words of the hymn, “and they will know we are Christians by our love.”