do we proclaim the message Jesus did?

emptychurchOccasionally Christians are accused of failing to proclaim the message Jesus did.

Often this is connected to a perceived intolerance or lack of concern for the marginalised on the part of Christians (the assumption being that Jesus was ever-tolerant and always passionately concerned for the marginalised).

But my usual reflex in the face of such accusation is to search out even greater continuity with the proclamation of Jesus.

I’ll either point to the oddly astringent fact that this one who was supposedly so tolerant also had some of the hardest words to say about imminent judgement and the need for faith in Him. Or I’ll wonder whether or not there may be things about the way I proclaim the good news (and conduct my entire life) that are in fact out of line with my Lord.

But Oliver O’Donovan offers an alternative: own the difference!

At the start of a chapter of The Desire of the Nations that every Christian — or at least every theological college student — really should read, he says (p 120):

Jesus proclaimed the coming Kingdom of God, but the apostolic church did not. It told the story of what happened when the Kingdom came: its conflict with the established principalities and powers and its vindication at God’s right hand through Jesus’ resurrection. What the church proclaimed was not what Jesus proclaimed, because it stood on the other side of that great crisis which his proclamation evoked. Yet it claimed continuity with his proclamation, because he, and his message of the Kingdom, had been vindicated.

Way to take the fight to ’em! Right?

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