How the Gospel Spurs Lament and Reconciliation

We read from tweets and news feeds that reconciliation and justice are gospel issues, but rarely do we use the gospel narrative to actually disciple people in practicing justice. James Choung’s Big Story gospel diagram gives us a tool to explain what is wrong with our world and why Jesus is the ultimate solution to the pain, suffering and injustice we see all around us.

If you’re not familiar with the four worlds of the Big Story, I urge you to watch the video before reading further. Then download the Big Story app and you’ll have a creative way to communicate the gospel right from your smartphone or tablet.

Here’s why this gospel outline is important to share with people who are passionate about social issues, but unaware of God’s solutions.

The First World

The first world displays the beauty of what God created and intended in the first place. This is Shalom theology that lays the foundation for stewardship of creation, gender reconciliation, and an identity rooted in God, not in accomplishments, ethno-centrism, citizenship or income. Eden is not just the place where the Fall happened; it’s a snapshot of what God intended for all of creation.

So the next time there is an incident of injustice on your campus and someone asks, “Why should I care about this?” pull out the Big Story Gospel Presentation and look at the first circle. We are all made in the image of God, commanded to flourish, work, rule and create.

Every faculty, staff, and student in the university community is beloved by God and made for a right relationship with him, with creation, with themselves and with one another. And when we disagree with professors or administrators and denigrate them, or marginalize the LGBT community, we are violating the purposes of God. We are crushing the image of God in them and in ourselves. We were intended for community, made for relationships and an abundant life. We were not made for one-night stands, rumors, gossip and cyber-bullying.

The Second World

When examining the second circle with sin entering the world, it’s tempting not to fully enter into the seriousness of what it represents. Very few of us spend time in lament and repentance over the transgressions we have done and the sins committed on our behalf. So we are not able to articulate the gravity of our horrible state as people in a creation separated from God. Sin, personal and corporate, is a violation of God’s purposes and deserves contrite reflection before it runs rampant in our dorms, homes, classrooms and companies.Therefore, if we only use the Big Story Gospel as a representation of the kingdom of God for someone else, we will never engage in our own depravity which makes it plausible to believe that Jesus is the savior of the world.

The Third World

So, without regular investigation of our own sin and brokenness, we take the answer to a fallen world into our own hands and treat it as though it is not the work of the God who made it. It then becomes the impossible task of we who were made. We commit the same sin that Adam and Even originated when we believe that our action will make us like God, rather than embracing our inherent identity as his children made in his image. Instead of resting in the reality of their God-given identities, they chose to believe that God had held something back, and they attempted to seize it for themselves. Adam and Eve chose supposed control, false wisdom, and perceived sovereignty in their own minds instead of trusting in an omnipotent, wise and all-powerful God.

When we don’t contemplate our own limitedness, the hypocrisy of our words compared to our deeds, and our inability to “do something” about the Holocaust, Khmer Rouge, Trail of Tears, or the shouting of our abusive neighbors next door, we forget that we are not God. We may falsely believe that we, during our short lives, can correct and atone for the personal, relational, and systemic brokenness before our birth, during our lives and after our death. There is no summer internship, no program, no amount of money, no sacrifice that will bring back to life Trayvon Martin, Akai Gurley or Officers Ramos and Liu except for Jesus Christ.

But because repentance doesn’t produce popular Christian songs or “inspiring” sermons, we are left with many who have “messiah complexes.” They ride into broken neighborhoods on 501c3 horses and invade relationships with their brand of “truth” — and hurt people.

We have not reflected on the world that God intended (1st World), how horribly we have broken it (2nd World) and what God did to save it from eternal separation from him (3rd World). The word “world” in John 3:16 is Kosmos, which means his ordered purpose. He laid down his life for much more than black or white people. His ordered purpose is too big for us to ever redeem. When we put our “evangelism tool” away after someone prays the prayer, we lose the sanctifying power of Jesus and can’t preach or teach a gospel that is the hope of the world.

The Fourth World

So, what of the 4th world? Here we enter into his healing and are sent out to be Christ’s ambassadors of the coming kingdom, bearing his shalom to every corner of the campus and beyond. I believe that we’re not able to live out the Great Commission and be truly sent to heal because we don’t understand the world that God made, how we have violated it, and that Jesus is the only one through whom all can be saved.

When our chapter leadership team gets this four-world reality, then we live out InterVarsity’s mission of renewing the campus. We launch new small groups to unreached communities. We start GIGS with freshmen. We organize prayer vigils when violence happens on campus. We take over New Student Orientation and help freshmen adjust. We encourage upperclassmen to redefine success. We commission brothers and sisters to student government and other student clubs, and the process of transformation continues.

If we seek the world God intended, then we must sit in the tension of lament and reconciliation. We work in partnership with God when we affirm the poor and marginalize, grieve their hurt and pain, and refuse to perpetuate prejudice.

The Big Story Gospel is not just an evangelism tool; it is essential to discipleship and our formation as campus ministers. So, the next time a student asks why the chapter wants to start a new GIG, multiply a small group, or raise funds for those suffering from ebola, share the whole gospel with them.

Let us invite the Holy Spirit to give us eyes to see and ears to hear his invitation to partner with him in the renewal of all things.

Get the Big Story app to share the gospel on your iOS or Android device. It’s free from InterVarsity!

If you want to read more by Jonathan Walton, check out his article on the Huffington Post called “We Need More Fundamentals” or his article on Eiram.org called “Why Can’t We Mourn With Muslims?” Both are very powerful articles.

Jonathan Walton

New York City Urban Project Director

Jonathan Walton is InterVarsity’s New York City Urban Project Director. Jonathan has worked to call students and volunteers to put their faith into concrete, sustainable action for the last 7 years, first as a member of World Vision’s Speaker’s Bureau and now as Director of InterVarsity’s NYCUP. He is the author of three books of poetry and short stories. Presently, he lives with his wife, Priscilla, in Jackson Heights. After much prayer and consideration, Walton has made a 20-year commitment to his service to God and those who have yet to know Him.