Monday, February 22, 2010

Lee Camp on the Call of the Gospel to Indiscriminate, Suffering Love

"The gospel is not sectarian, but a call to an indiscriminate, suffering love. The particulars of such love will vary, obviously, with the context, but unlike the principalities and powers, who think it is the power brokers to whom we should cater our concerns, the gospel reminds us that it is particularly 'the least' whom we are called to serve, for in the least is embodied the person of Jesus (Matt. 25:31-46). This may mean that the respectable Dallas businessman must learn to go to the trailer park, or that the Christian school must learn to truly honor its immigrant workers with a respectable living wage, or that the old established church must flee the temptation of white flight, or that the physician must challenge the profiteering hospital that turns away the uninsured, or that white southerners should learn Spanish in order to minister to the influx of Hispanics. The possible permutations are innumerable, but they are all part of the fabric of the Good News of the kingdom. The gospel is neither sectarian, nor irrelevant, but the only hope of a world hurtling toward self-destruction; it is the only hope of a world that seems eager to storm the very gates of hell. The gospel is the offer of Good News to a world that, if left to its own devices and methods, would destroy itself. The gospel offers much more realistic responses to the desperate needs of the world. Neighborhood victim-offender reconciliations programs, modeled after Jesus' injunctions to seek reconciliation before going to the judge, offer a long-term, more effective manner to deal with dispute and offense than does a hard-nosed 'justice system.' The recovery and hope offered in twelve-step groups, modeled after so much of the best of the Christian tradition, provide a response to addictions of whatever stripe that's much more 'realistic' than a criminal justice system that responds only with incarceration. Most should be able to see the insanity of the burgeoning super-max prison system in which inmates are caged for twenty-three of every twenty-four hours, especially when the vast majority of those offenders are then released to the larger world, only more hardened and wounded by the 'justice' they have received. And where would be the present good of African-Americans in the United States had Martin Luther King, Jr., championed the way of the sword rather than the way of suffering love? The same might be asked of the population of India under the British, or South Africa under apartheid, or innumerable others. ...

"The gospel offers the world a real alternative, the possibility of something truly good, for it is of God. The challenge of evangelism may, however, be first a challenge of discipleship: will we be what we have been called to be? Or will we, all in the name of 'relevance,' be grasping and grabbing to get our hands on the throttle of the old ways that have been defeated, are on their way out, and are, in the end, irrelevant themselves?"

--Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2003), 191-93


  1. Evangelism was, for far too long, merely proclamation with no concern for incarnation. I wonder, though, what happens when it becomes only incarnation and we lose the ability to proclaim with words the things we believe.

    Also, evangelism in past generations required little if any nuance or expertise really. It merely required willingness. Now it required willingness and patience -- both of which are difficult to come by sadly.

    Good meeting you this weekend. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts here.

  2. Hey John,

    Thanks for stopping by! Glad to see you found it. On the right-hand column, after the archive by date, I have a series collected on evangelism; I'd be interested to see your thoughts on those more elaborated reflections.

    Thanks again for the great weekend; I look forward to seeing you again.