What is the Central Truth of Christianity?

Jesus said it was loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. Paul agreed and said that he preached nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, which was the fulfillment of Jesus’ love for the Father and for us (But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us – Romans 5:8). Loving God. Loving People.

I’m in Waveland, Mississippi this week with a group from our church to work with Pathfinder Mission. We brought a bunch of families down with their kids to visit people, help them out some, pray with them, counsel them, and throw a big party on Wednesday for the 4th of July. I am seeing some people that I met last year (check out my posts from the Coast from July, 2006) and am catching up on how they have progressed. Over and over I am hearing one constant refrain: If it weren’t for Christians and the church, we don’t know where we would be. This is coming from many who are non-Christians. They are so thankful. They welcome us into their homes out of respect for all who have come before us. They welcome us and thank us because of all that have come before who have loved God and have loved them. Christianity has been lived out down here and it has made a difference.

But, we don’t always experience this in the Church in America. I wonder if a big part of our problem has been that we have allowed "truth" to be taught to us by academics who have parsed every verb and split every hair. I wonder if we have allowed the pharisees, who are the experts in the Law, to dictate to us what it means to believe the truth and we have submitted ourselves to that interpretation to the point that it has affected our ability to work with others. Maybe we should take some time to listen to those swinging the hammers and leading the mission teams. There is a lady that I met last year named Hazel. She is in her 80’s, and when I met her she was living in a FEMA trailer next to a home that had been stripped to the studs. Today, I saw her in a newly repaired home. It was fixed up by a church from Massachusetts who came down again and again. I don’t know every jot and tittle of their theology, but they told her about Jesus and they showed her love. I have a good feeling that I’ll see them in heaven. If I will be with them in heaven, shouldn’t I find a way to work with people like that now? As a matter of fact, unless they are teaching something that will keep people out of heaven, do I not have a responsibility to find common ground with them and keep the unity of the saints in Christ? Once you really begin to face the desperate need and lostness of people, it is hard to understand why you would not want to work with as many Christians as you could to bring the love of Jesus to the Nations.

When Christians are on mission together, the world experiences the love of Christ made flesh. We become His hands and feet. Those hands and feet continue to make a difference on the Gulf Coast. If your church has yet to take a trip down here, you are missing an incredible blessing. So many are still in need and there is still so much work to be done. Everyone that could help themselves has already done so.  Much of the work that is left is among the elderly, the disabled, and those who are alone and have no means of support. They are good people and they are trying their best. They just need a helping hand. Please pray about joining the massive parade of Christians who have come down here and have made a difference in the lives of people on the Gulf Coast.

Something tells me that I am seeing the core of Christianity lived out down here. Theology makes a lot more sense when people are living it instead of arguing about it. When you are in trouble, there is little time to divide over every little doctrine. You roll your sleeves up, find out where you can cooperate, and you get to work building the Kingdom – one broken life at a time.

I’ll have more reports and a lot of pictures later in the next couple of days. You really need to see the before and after pictures of Hazel’s house!

3 Responses to What is the Central Truth of Christianity?

  1. Alan,
    Your post really resonates with me. Our church has sent 4 groups over the past 2 years to Bay St. Louis, just a couple of miles east of Waveland. As a matter of fact, many of the homes that we’ve worked on were located in Waveland. We have coordinated our efforts through the First Baptist Church of BSL. Their pastor, Al Green, is a former missionary colleague of ours in Argentina and this presented a very natural link-up for our relief efforts. Their church hosts anywhere from 50 to close to 200 volunteers per week and has been doing so since right after Katrina.
    The testimonies we’ve heard are the same you’ve heard and are hearing. Without the work of Christian volunteers, little progress would have been made in the rebuilding efforts. Georgia Baptists Disaster Relief folks have a long-term commitment with FBC BSL and have people helping assess needs, schedule groups, etc. I wholeheartedly agree that living out one’s theology in that kind of setting is a lot more rewarding than arguing about it. Good words as always.

  2. I’m just starting Eugene Peterson’s “The Jesus Way”. Once again, he convicts me to really figure out what’s from Christ and what I’ve picked up from the culture–American-Christian or secular.
    Please pray for us. We’re moving to Colorado and we need to find yet another church.