by Ken Baker
(Editor’s note: This is the final in a 10-part series on how our theology informs our evangelism.)
Tragic, violent events create conclusions about those involved. Perpetrators are evil and victims are good. Obviously, terrorists and criminals wear black hats, while victims and sufferers wear white hats. Human nature drives us to vilify some and exalt others. In fact, we excel in polarizing people socially, economically, politically, religiously, and globally—because there are good guys (us) and bad guys (them).
Yes, there are evildoers of every sort, but we can also assign evilness when it is merely ‘different-ness’. Humans use the language and concepts of ‘us and them’ all the time as we judge others and otherness. Human nature wrestles against loving even our neighbors, let alone our enemies! Dividing people into categories makes us feel safe in the reality we have created and justified.
This is not, however, a true picture of humanity or of ourselves…nor is it God’s perspective. “There is no one righteous, not even one….for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10, 23). “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). We are all in the same condition apart from God.
Humanity is an extension of God’s eternal love. All humanity belongs to God through His creative intention for eternal union and communion. God created humanity for Himself, and since all human existence derives from and for God, there is an eternal home in the heart of God for His humanity.
God so loved humanity that He became eternally human in Jesus Christ in order to redeem His humanity for His glory and enjoyment.
Christ, the second Adam, was the perfect human, the embodiment of what God intended for human being. Likewise, His body, the Church, is intended to be the embodiment of perfect human community. As my wife often reminds me, the best Christian is the one who is the most human—engaging and loving persons in all their God-designed humanness.
What does this have to with mission and evangelism?
It reorients who we see. God’s activity precedes our own. Too often, we think that God is not present or active in someone’s life until we show up. With God, however, no one is nameless. No one is excluded from His love and attention. Let’s not forget that Paul, our celebrated New Testament church planter and teacher, had a ‘black hat’ past which God redeemed.
It reorients what we pursue. People are not merely objects for our evangelistic agenda. They are human companions in God’s redemption narrative. There is true value in relationship with anyone and everyone—people who are God’s humanity and our fellow divine imagebearers.
It reorients how we love. Love is the only divine attribute in which humans can wholly share. Thus, when we can love evildoers as much as we love sufferers, then we love as God loves and the world will see God in our witness of His character.
There are no black or white hats, just persons to love as God loves.
Ken Baker (@KenJBaker) is the international ministry training facilitator for a global organization and is currently on assignment abroad.