“e-van-gel-i-cal, Pronunciation [ee-van-jel-i-kuhl, ev-uhn-]
1. pertaining to or in keeping with the gospel and its teachings.
2. belonging to or designating the Christian churches that emphasize the teachings and authority of the Scriptures, esp. of the New Testament, in opposition to the institutional authority of the church itself, and that stress as paramount the tenet that salvation is achieved by personal conversion to faith in the atonement of Christ.
3. designating Christians, esp. of the late 1970s, eschewing the designation of fundamentalist but holding to a conservative interpretation of the Bible.
4. pertaining to certain movements in the Protestant churches in the 18th and 19th centuries that stressed the importance of personal experience of guilt for sin, and of reconciliation to God through Christ.
5. marked by ardent or zealous enthusiasm for a cause.”
Hmmmm, politics is not even eluded too even once in this five segmented definition of the word evangelical. But it leaves something out too. The root word of evangelical is “evangel” means “one who brings the good news.”
This definition of evangelical (the adjective), like many evangelicals (the noun), leaves out the good news.
Evangelicals should be the happiest people on the planet. After all we believe that God sacrificed His own Son to redeem us from the slavery of sin and bring us into His own family. Through faith in Christ we have been plucked off of the highway to hell and put on the narrow way to heaven. God is our Father. Jesus is our Savior. Heaven is our home.
YIPPEEE! YAHOO! HOORAH!
But instead of being the good news people we often come off as the bad news bears. We rant and rave about the decline and fall of Western civilization and the moral unravelling of our nation. Instead of open hands we too often have closed fists, ready for a fight when any pro-abortion, homosexual acceptin’ secularist tilts his/her head to the left.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m concerned with where our nation is heading. But I’m even more concerned with where the church is heading. After all, we as Christians are ultimately citizens of a different kind of country. Paul writes in Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” For we, as believers, heaven is our home and Jesus is our President.
I’m sure Paul was concerned with where the spiritually depraved Roman Empire was headed on a moral level but can you imagine the Apostle Paul organizing protests in some kind of anti-Nero campaign? Can you imagine him building some political task force to work with the Senate of Rome to erase sin from Rome through legislation? No! Paul had a different approach.
Although Nero was the ultimate example of unbridled hedonism meets unrestrained cruelty, Paul never once implies in any of his letters or sermons that Christians should unite overtly or covertly against him and the depravity he represented. Instead Paul writes in Romans 13 that we should submit to the governing authorities. And in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 he challenges believers to pray for him consistently.
In Acts we even get a glimpse of how he approaches key governmental leaders like Festus and Agrippa. He tries to lead them to Christ not convince them of his political position! Check out Luke’s record of the interaction between King Agrippa and the Apostle Paul, “The Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Short time or long-I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am” Acts 26:28-29. Paul was more concerned about Agrippa’s soul than his own political views!
What does all this mean for us who want to reclaim evangelicalism? It means that we refuse to be defined by our politics and choose to be labeled by our love for Jesus and our enemies. It means that we have more passion to reach the lost than we have for our political positions. It means that we spend way more time organizing good news campaigns than political ones. It means that we love others by listening to them deeply, serving them genuinely and sharing the gospel with them humbly.
By definition evangelicals understand that true change will never come about through political action, moral reformation and angry campaigns. True change will happen when the church is revived and the people of this nation are reached with the good news as a result. This is the ultimate campaign that all of us as Christians are called to join! Red and Blue this means you.
Rise up evangelicals! Pray for your president! Vote your conscience! Live the truth! Share the gospel! But, for Christ’s sake, do it all with a great big smile on your face!
No more crabby evangelicals.