As a church, we are going through the first chapters of Acts during our Sunday morning worship. In these early chapters, we are seeing two decidedly different responses to the Gospel: repentance and faith in some and increasing hostility in others. It is telling that the same message can illicit such differing responses. For some, the announcement of Christ’s death and resurrection brings humility and effusive joy. For others, it brings forth anger, hostility, even rage. This from a message that points out that everyone is an “emperor who has no clothes”, and in the next breath offers to cloth them in Christ’s righteousness.
I came across an article this morning that is yet another example of this dynamic, but in present day Australia. It was written by an author I respect, Tony Payne who wrote “The Trellis and the Vine”. He recounts a recent interaction at a conference in Australia…
“We had a talkfest here in Sydney recently called ‘The Festival of Dangerous Ideas’, at which participants could experience the frisson of discussing daring and explosive concepts with a soy latte in hand. Most of the ideas were in fact rather conventionally dangerous in a green-left sort of way, although gay activist Dan Savage received special marks for his dangerous idea that abortion should be made mandatory for 30 years to make a dent in the worldwide population problem. (The audience, having escaped the womb safely themselves, felt confident to clap.)
However, at one point in one of the debates, something remarkable happened. In a moment of real courage, Peter Hitchens (brother of Christopher) suggested that the most dangerous idea in the world was that “Jesus Christ was the son of God and rose from the dead”.
The audience cheered, thinking that Hitchens was channelling his late brother in a religion-poisons-everything sort of way. But when asked why Jesus’ resurrection was dangerous, Hitchens said this:
Because it alters the whole of human behaviour and all our responsibilities. It turns the universe from a meaningless chaos into a designed place in which there is justice and there is hope and, therefore, we all have a duty to discover the nature of that justice and work towards that hope. It alters us all. If we reject it, it alters us all as well. It is incredibly dangerous. It’s why so many people turn against it.
The audience lapsed into a deathly silence. It was as if someone had just praised Margaret Thatcher.
The whole incident (and festival) was sobering and encouraging at the same time. It showed very graphically just how despised and marginal the Christian gospel is, and how far gone our public intellectual conversation is from a biblical world view. But it also showed, just fleetingly, how daring and explosive the Christian gospel is; how shocking, how confronting, how dangerous.”
Wow. I don’t think we often see the Gospel as dangerous. At least, I confess I don’t think of the Gospel like this enough. Maybe those people who get the angriest are more in tune with the radical nature of what is being said. Because they know if it’s true, it’s not just a band-aid on our problems, but it radically changes everything most of our contemporaries think about the world around us. It is a revolutionary message on a cosmic scale.
Creekside, as we spend the several months in Acts, let’s consider together the “dangerous message” the church is entrusted with and consider what this “dangerous grace” means for Gainesville.