By: Kevin Seguin
There are a number of verses in scripture that bear particular weight on my spirit, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 is one of the bigger ones:
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (ESV)
The metaphor of our lives being like a house that we build on the foundation of Christ and the Gospel is a helpful one. All of our lives, while we live them here, we work. While we work here, our "house" is being assembled. Christ is the foundation, my marriage is the floor, my job is the walls, my kids are the roof, and that door frame over there is the time I volunteered at the youth center... The good things we do, the things that were righteous are the things that endure and continue on after the judgement of fire Paul describes. The things that aren't? They get burned up because they are useless to and in the Kingdom.
I'm suddenly thinking about this because Jack Chick died recently. If you're unfamiliar with Chick or his work, Sam Thielman at The Guardian did a really good write up on his life and work.
To be honest, Chick's work makes me sick to my stomach. I can't stand the arrogance, and the graceless way he delivered it. He mounted crusades on any group who disagreed with his narrow vision of Christianity. Roman Catholics, Ecumenism, the LGBT community, Halloween, even (and oddly specifically) Dungeons and Dragons. When he died, his company posted this on their Facebook page:
They promise their following that nothing will change, not the method, not the vision, and not the purpose. Perhaps this is my own gracelessness showing, but I have a hard time believing that the comic above is exactly the reception Chick got.
Now, by no means am I saying that Jack isn't in the Kingdom, that he was excluded from heaven. First, that question's out of my pay grade, and second, if I believe what Paul says above (and I do) then I must believe that Jack Chick was a brother in Christ even if he might not have said the same about me.
Ask me for an educated guess though? I doubt there are many Chick Tracts in his new house's library.
There's another verse that bears weight on me, I've written about it before, and it is the centerpiece of my own ministry. Colossians 4 teaches us that our witness toward outsiders must be "seasoned with salt," we must use wisdom and be winsome to be most effective. Chick didn't do this, he used fear, and the threat of punishment in Hell to push people towards a decision for Christ. I'm not arrogant enough to say that nobody ever got saved after reading a Chick Tract, they share many stories of people who say just that about themselves on their website. What I am saying is that fear of punishment is a horrible reason to become a Christian.
I'm not a Christian because I fear Hell, I'm a Christian because I love Christ and that is an important distinction. Far from being afraid of judgement, I realize that there is no judgement waiting for me (outside of the one from 1 Corinthians 3, but that's a whole other issue) because Jesus has already accepted the punishment that I deserve on the cross. That's the message I try and share, that's why it's called good news!
The Gospel isn't about scaring people into the Kingdom. The Kingdom has no place for fear since we know that "Perfect love casts out fear." The Gospel, and the good news that we share are about hope and love and winsomely telling people that while, yes, they (we) are sinners, the punishment has been paid and we are all now free to live lives that are full lives. Lives of love, and worship and not of fear.
At the end of the day, while I disagree with much of what he did, I respect Chick. I respect his determination and steadfastness. I respect his willingness to give his life for the Great Commission and for evangelism, even if I am horrified by his methods. I respect that he tried to serve God the best way he knew how.
Best part of the Gospel? One day, we'll sit down and talk about it together.
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