Thursday, January 3, 2008

Lima Beans and the Gospel ?

I don't think I would have ever thought the Gospel and lima beans had anything to do with each other in any way. Mark Labberton's article - "The Lima Bean Gospel" (Christianity Today, January 2008 issue) correlates the two with challenging insights about the church and believers and how we live out (or fail to live out) the truths of the Gospel before the watching world. Mark Labberton's main thesis is that our ability to live God's amazing Gospel of grace is directly proportional to the size of that Gospel in our own hearts.

I also agree with Pastor Luke Camera (church planter in Paris, France). He writes on his blog that the correlation of lima beans to the Gospel may be a huge gap in the author's personal experience with lima beans.

At our house we had lima beans for Christmas dinner 2007. Lima beans are delicious cooked properly (long) and seasoned with salt, pepper and real butter. They are less than delicious undercooked and improperly seasoned which is how most people are acquainted with the lima bean.

But back to the Gospel (and lima beans)! It is a compelling and challenging concept Labberton raises. Is it true that our connection with the Gospel makes that wonderful Gospel look way small for all the world to see? Labberton says, "The good news is so much bigger than we make it out to be."

Our God is NOT too small. His Gospel is NOT small at all! His Son, the Lord of all creation, is NOT small either.

The smallness comes in our hearts. Our mission is to be salt and light in a dark and rotten world. When we diminish the Gospel in any way, we show a false gospel to the world. If the watching world sees butterbeans rather than the glorious Gospel, then it is because our hearts are hard and shriveled (like some butterbeans).

Mark Labberton observes: "The love of Jesus Christ, through whom God is reconciling the whole world to himself, is no lima bean. ... The primary evidence that the gospel is no lima bean is meant to be the compelling, sacrificial love and justice vividly lived and humbly witnessed to by Christ's body." (Hmmm! That's you and me, baby! We are Christ's body here on earth for now. We are as good as it gets, and sadly that's mostly not so good!)

Jesus said that all men will know we have the living Gospel in our hearts by one evidence alone: how well we love one another! (John 13:35) We are called to restored hearts that are filled with over-flowing love demonstrated in how we live and relate to others.

Love isn't some abstract concept. Nor is love a cliche for books, novels or songs. The love we find in the Gospel has hands and feet that reach out and go and give even when it's difficult or unpopular or misunderstood! This Gospel isn't small at all! To our shame, we make the Gospel appear small because our own hearts are small, shriveled and hard. We need God's restoring grace for this day and every other day! We need restored hearts so we can live God's Gospel before the watching world in terms they see and understand and find compelling.

Labberton concludes, "The church cannot afford to give the impression that the particularity of the gospel only shines on us. If we love as we have been loved, the immensity and scope of God's intimate and cosmic gospel in Jesus Christ will be more evidently the salt and light of the world. We will be far more like Jesus described us - tangy and tangible Good News. And that is no lima bean gospel." (from Christianity Today, 1/08)

Lima beans are delicious on my plate and in my mouth (when properly prepared). But lima beans are not heart healthy food in any spiritual sense. Lima beans are food. The Gospel belongs to you and me and needs to live everyday in new and fresh ways in our hearts! Only the Gospel can restore brokenness in our hearts! Only the Gospel living in my heart (and yours) can shine in darkness to push back that darkness. Only the Gospel living in my heart can provide preservation in cultures bent to rot and decay!

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