“Non-Christians aren’t reading the four gospels; they read the fifth gospel in you and me. What are they seeing?”
— Colin Meadows
We Christians are a funny bunch. We follow a perfect Lord, yet are completely and utterly imperfect ourselves. We espouse to live to biblical principles, but get it wrong probably more than half the time. To be a Christian is to voluntarily put our hands up in taking on the role of hypocrisy. We are bigots who apparently hate gay people. And so much more... not that we believe these things about us, but it’s the version of the ‘fifth gospel’ non-Christian/non-religious people are reading into us; or do they just generalise and stereotype?
We, as Christians, are an oft-maligned group in society. Yet, we are also heralded in special ways for the things we do that come from our hearts; resonant from the heart of God—where love truly abounds.
Being a fifth gospel—as people read the story of our lives—a line, a paragraph, a page at a time—we have enormous influence for Christ within one solitary life: ours.
If we’re adopting the Bible as our precept for living, we’re probably dealing with our stuff in truth, being a loving family person, a loyal work colleague, and a responsible citizen.
But what are the practical differences a fifth gospel exemplifies?
Personifying the Fifth Gospel
What is God’s general will for our lives, as others look on? What is our witness of Christ?
1. We obey the law—not just the law of love, but we respect and uphold all laws: criminal code; taxation; human rights, etc. This is harder than it seems. It means doing the right thing even (especially even) when no one’s looking (but God is always looking).
2. We focus on the marginalised—Jesus was all about protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves. How are we loving those who may be ‘unattractive’ to the world? Or, are we favouring the popular people; loving them and spending time with them instead?
3. We worship and devote ourselves to ONE God—in our fast-pace mod-con world there are so many temptations to run after things (idols) other than God. Everything we do should spring from a focus on God.
4. We are inclusive in our fellowship—we do not exclude anyone and we are a friend to everyone. As Christians we can actually love everyone; Jesus commanded we do so, so it must be achievable.
5. We are willing to serve—we find joy in serving people, because we are an encouragement to them, and encouragement is one tangible way to love someone.
6. We are slow to anger and quick to forgive—perhaps the biggest test of the fifth-gospel Christian is their approach to relationships, hurts and forgiveness. Only by the grace of God can we truly forgive, so we tap into this grace by truly being a follower of Jesus.
7. We find ways to share our faith—we do so primarily by who we are, not what we say.
As Christians, we are the fifth gospel of Jesus Christ. What ‘Jesus’ are we showing to the world? Are we law-abiding, lovers of the marginalised, worshippers of one God, inclusive in our loving of everyone, willing to serve so as to encourage, slow to anger and quick to forgive, and willing to share our faith?
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.