At the risk of getting into trouble by opening my big mouth, something I have discovered I have a special talent for, I have decided to write a post regarding an idea I read by a well known actor turned Christian.
I read the idea in a secular magazine that was interviewing the actor about his newfound faith. In the interview, the actor was defending his criticism of Bono, the well known rock star who is the single greatest advocate for the poor in the world today (and also a self-professed Christian). The criticism went something like this: "Why should Bono spend all of that energy on helping Africa's poor when they are just going to go to hell if they don't accept Jesus?"
On the surface, this sounds like a noble idea for those of us who care about the eternal destinies of millions around the world. I must admit that I, myself, have or probably have made statements like this in the past, so this is not an attack on the personal integrity and faithfulness of the individual who made this statement.
So why am I, a man who has dedicated his life to world evangelism, disturbed by this idea? My concern comes not from a newly discovered theology that replaces preaching the gospel with opening soup kitchens. Nor does my concern mean that I do not want every human being on the planet to "receive Jesus." My concern comes from a nagging question that has been gnawing at my conscience for quite some time.
And that question is this: What does it mean to "receive Jesus" if it doesn't mean "live according to the values of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit"? Let me put it another way. If I, the evangelist, dedicate my life to telling the world to "receive Jesus" and yet, receiving Jesus to me doesn't include living according to the values of Jesus (aka..helping the poor), then what am I really saying if I tell the world that if they don't "receive Jesus" they will go to hell?
At the risk of sounding redundant, let me put it another way. Why should I tell the world they need to "receive Jesus" if "receiving Jesus" makes me less concerned about the values of Jesus than I did before?
A careful examination of the gospels shows that Jesus went out of His way to give dignity and value to those who are poor, broken, trampled on, abused, and despised by society. In fact, Jesus even indicated that, in the end, judgment will be based on how we treat "the least of these, my brethren."
If "receiving Jesus" has come to mean criticizing those who stand up for the world's poor,(as I suspect it does for the numerous people who would agree with that position, including myself until very recently) I think a serious reexamination is in order.