Broad gospel categorizations are usually put this way: Situation “A” happened in the news today. That’s wrong. Well you know what the problem is? Sin. Here’s a fix: Insert Bible verses. The end.
This simplistic formula has rich truth. But we must labor to mine those truths and put the gospel to work in specific situations. And we work with and from a broad understanding of the gospel as it relates to sin. If we lazily remain lofty in our analysis of sin, we incorrectly assume the gospel is not as wide in scope as it is rich in depth.
Failure To See & Act
We hear misogynistic lyrics in songs, but where did the ideas originate? We see the effects of drug abuse, but why did people begin relying on them? We see the scantily dressed woman and hear the arrogant man, but what drives their decisions to dress and speak in those ways?
If we fail to understand the specific issues we battle against, the message we preach can become disingenuous and insensitive. We may develop self-righteousness attitudes towards others:
“If those people could just see their sin, repent, and trust Jesus, their problems would be fixed;”
“If they just pull themselves up by their bootstraps, they could fix their own problems.”
“They just need to stop being so prideful.”
Diagnosing specific sin from only a lofty position makes it harder to see how it is combatted by the gospel on a ground level. The distance we create from the battlefront impairs our vision to see the intricacies of what is taking place in the heart.
If we cannot correctly see what is going on, where we will know to shine our lights? Who will we know to serve? How will we know the ways to properly serve them? In what ways will we know how to push back darkness? What darkness will we know to push back?
Failure To Sympathize
Jesus was on the ground. He saw people. He saw their needs and their problems. He knew their greatest need was God, but that did not stop him from providing for them (John 6:1–14, 26–27). He got to know and serve people, and he used those opportunities to point them to trust in the Father (John 11:35–36, 38–40). Even when he seemed insensitive he was compassionate to their physical needs and the need of their soul (Matthew 15:21–28).
Jesus is our high priest and our sympathizer. He understands all our temptations. He does not excuse us our sin; rather, in his sympathy –mainly through his death and resurrection – he commands us to escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). He commands us to be like him – knowing and serving people.
When our hearts are aligned with his, we are more compelled and equipped to sympathize alongside Believers and Unbelievers. When we tend to spiritual needs and preaching the gospel in all situations our platform has a wider opportunity to be effective.
Keep It Central When It’s Not Simple
The gospel speaks to all areas of sin. The good news that God is redeeming all of creation should compel us to think broadly and speak specifically to matters of sin. In our acting, analyzing, sympathizing, and understanding people bound and affected by sin we do not let go of the gospel – we keep it central.
We are equipped for our mission to share the good news of Jesus Christ. The gospel is broad enough to address any specific sin. We can let go of our generalities, join God’s mission to redeem his people, and thoughtfully engage singular matters of sin.