John looked at me puzzled, “I never would have guessed that you were a Christian.” I smiled, assuming that was a good thing. He paused. “I’m not sure that’s a good thing. If you really believe that stuff aren’t you supposed to tell heathens like me?”
I’d been ashamed of the gospel, and my friend John could tell.
Shame isn’t always bad. A sense of shame is a necessary restraint against negative or destructive behaviors. A healthy sense of shame can strengthen the will to do what’s right in the face of temptation.
But on campus shame is used in unhealthy ways. The social cues send a clear message: “Keep your Christian faith to yourself.” Do a quick word association of evangelical Christian on campus and you find some interesting associations: close-minded, homophobic, judgmental, repressed, backwards, dumb.
We have to come to grips with shame if we are going to be serious about witness on campus. What can we learn from Paul in Romans 1 to help us to not be ashamed?
Reflections on Romans
Paul mentions the gospel of Jesus Christ 3 times in the first 16 verses of Romans 1. Here are some observations of Paul’s presentation of the gospel.
Good News, not Good Advice: Paul does not present the gospel as a private spirituality for people who are into that sort of thing. He describes the gospel as an event that happened. “Jesus Christ… descended from David… risen from the dead.” (1-4) There are, of course, personal implications that follow from this announcement, but it is an announcement of an event that happened not of a personal or private experience.
No one is ashamed to talk about the news. Perhaps we need to be reminded that the gospel we proclaim on campus is good news about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (and his call to repentance and faith) — not good advice fitting awkwardly into the smorgasbord of campus life.
Announcing gospel as worship/service: Is worship simply singing songs? Is service simply being kind or doing good deeds? Paul sees his announcement of the resurrection of Jesus as the primary means of his worship and service to God (v. 9).
What would it look like if our communities saw the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection as the primary means of our worship and service to God? How would it change our witness if we saw evangelism as the primary vehicle of our worship?
Word, Deed, & Power: Paul longs to share the gospel in Rome so that he might see a harvest. (v13) He doesn’t hope to see a harvest. He expects one. Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because he knows that this good news is spoken in words, modeled with deeds, and demonstrated in power.
What are we expecting? How are we praying? Are we moving onto campus with expectant hope? Do we have faith to pray for healings, for powerful signs to accompany our witness? Do we expect the gospel to go forward through our words, in our deeds, and by the power of the spirit? Rome was decidedly more hostile to Paul’s announcement than the campus is to ours, but he expected a harvest nevertheless.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Paul says. Are we? Paul isn’t ashamed because he recognizes the gospel as good news. Our campus needs good news. It longs for wholeness even as it further fragments itself. We have hope and wholeness because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Paul says. Are we? We can’t stop our witness to the university without stopping our worship to God. If we are willing to see our witness as our worshipm, and our worship as a witness, it would change our ministry. Paul saw his life and ministry that way. So can we.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Paul says. Are we? The announcement of the gospel in the New Testament comes with signs of God’s power. (People coming to faith, healing, signs of repentance, etc.) Years ago we used to talk about sharing the gospel in word and deed. We’ve changed that to say, we share the gospel in word, deed, and power. Yes, train students to articulate the good news in words. Yes, develop students as women and men of integrity who say ‘yes’ to Jesus in every sphere of their lives. Yes, expect God to move powerfully as we faithfully to proclaim his good news.
Question: How could you model bold confidence in the Gospel’s power today? Share your thoughts in the comments.