Written by Jesse Hove of Toronto, ON
When the Apostle Paul tells us he is “not ashamed of the gospel” (Romans 1:16) we often conjure images from our modern Christian culture of us standing up against secular society, calling out our atheist teachers and professors, or declaring Christianity as the one true religion among a huge batch of options.
While all of these examples have their time and place, we are missing something crucial in Paul’s meaning if we think standing up for Jesus is only about our arguments.
For Paul, standing up for Jesus also means emptying ourselves of worldly desire, and identifying with those on the margins.
Over and over again Paul references himself as a slave of Christ. He uses this language because in Rome there was nothing much lower than being a slave. Being a slave meant you had no status, no rights and no privilege in Roman society.
This is the posture we need to take as Christians. Early Church writings show the self-emptying encouraged by Paul and Jesus was seen as an embarrassment to Rome but grew the Church like wildfire among the “foolish and low individuals, and persons devoid of perception, and slaves, and women, and children” (Contra Celsum, Origen).
It is the broken and marginalized who are most likely to receive the gospel of Christ, and it’s these folks who we as Christians are called to embrace. Despite how it may make us look to our friends or family, we are called to reach out to those who are most aware of their failures and often least liked in society.
Is there somebody at your school who is always getting in trouble and nobody really likes? Is there somebody you know who is disliked or lonely simply because they come from a different worldview or religion than your own? Is there a kid in your class that is seen as a trouble maker or simply annoying?
These are the people Jesus hung out with. Jesus befriended tax collectors despite the fact that they were feared and hated. He befriended Roman soldiers despite the fact they had a very different religion and worldview than His own. And he befriended prostitutes despite their sexual sin.
We are called to stand up for Jesus not simply as a call to argue for our faith, but in identifying with and acting out our love on those least valued by the world. Look out for these people in your life, proclaim the gospel of Christ’s love to them and with them, become the hands and feet of Jesus.