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The Vulnerable Gospel

We know that we should share our faith, but many of us feel awkward doing so. Maybe it’s time we changed the way we shared the Gospel. Those of us who follow Jesus usually begin our presentation of the Gospel with an emphasis on sin and shame. And yes, that certainly is an important part of…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

We know that we should share our faith, but many of us feel awkward doing so. Maybe it’s time we changed the way we shared the Gospel.

Those of us who follow Jesus usually begin our presentation of the Gospel with an emphasis on sin and shame. And yes, that certainly is an important part of the Gospel. We are separated from God by sin and God’s provision for us is Jesus.

But, it’s not how Paul shared it (see Acts 26). Nor is it how Jesus shared it.

Jesus didn’t begin sharing his good news with the public until he’d gone to a vulnerable place. And maybe we should do the same. Luke 4 tells us that he went into the desert and fasted for 40 days. In that place of weakness, the enemy sought to exploit his vulnerability.

On the heels of that experience, Jesus tells us that the target of his ministry is going to be the vulnerable. He tells us why they are vulnerable in Luke 4:18-19:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The poor are vulnerable because they have few resources. The others he lists – the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed, are all missing something that humans need for a full life. 

We see Jesus begin his ministry by doing just that – ministering to the vulnerable. He was what Walter Wangerin called the Ragman – exchanging the pain afflicting people (their rags) for hope. We don’t see him shaming people with a gospel of sin, but loving them by meeting their felt needs.

And when in Matthew 5-7 he explains his ministry to his disciples on a mountain, again his target is those who are vulnerable. Look at how he again defines those he is targeting:

The poor in spirit – that is to say, those who are hopeless and even desperate. Those are the candidates to experience the kingdom of God.

Those who are mourning – who have lost someone or something dear to them. They are feeling the gap that we feel down here on earth. God wants to touch them and comfort them.

The weak and vulnerable (the meek). God wants to give them an important stewardship – the earth itself. God wants to trust them with the earth’s bounty.

Those who are feeling hungry to see God’s kingdom established, who dream about a world where the broken are healed and justice reigns.

Jesus has good news to share with the vulnerable and he begins by telling them why they are the target of his ministry. Their felt need is the starting place for his Gospel. It is the landing strip on which love can arrive in their lives.

What if we changed the way we shared the Gospel to follow Jesus’ pattern? What if instead of presenting truth as a lawyer would present it – as a series of if/then propositions – we instead showed up with acts of love as Jesus did? What if we looked for the vulnerable and hopeless and began meeting their felt needs?

What if we led with our vulnerability as Jesus did? What if instead of the Four Spiritual Laws tract, we talked about why Jesus’ message was such good news to us in our place of vulnerability? What if we began by sharing our own story of weakness and then shared about a God who loves his kids and wants them to walk with him in a kingdom where love is the law of the land?

We’ve been given good news – news that we received when our hearts were open. Why not look for those who are postured that way and share with them from a place of vulnerability?

Comments (12)

  • Love this! My heart jumped for joy at the line in the second to last paragraph “a kingdom where love is the law of the land”. How wonderful to know that is available to us!

  • Oh this rings loud in my heart. Loving the broken. He loved us. We are to love others. Regardless of the wall in front of us. Jesus sees through those walls. So we go and faith and believe that when we love on those vulnerable ones as we are too that Christ’s message is going to penetrate their hearts because of the love not judgement.

    • Me too, Sandy. I’m sold out to this Gospel. You’ve paid the greatest price already – the rest is easy by comparison.

  • You’re right. Amen Seth.
    I’m asking God to make me approachable and to show me how to approach the weak and vulnerable with love and compassion. It sounds easy on paper but when you’re standing in front of them and you want to gently enter their world and just talk it isn’t always easy. But God has been putting all kinds of people on my path. Muslims atheists agnostics depressed backslidden people. People with mental illness. I’ve been getting hit really hard spiritually speaking in Warfare…

  • Thanks Seth
    You have summarized how Ive felt quite a while. That evangelism as presented today begins with focus on the Gen 3 fall of man and ends with the reestablishment of relationship with God brought by accepting the life, death and resurrection of Christ. So we’re out of hell for eternity and into heaven. On to the next prospect.
    Two bookends of that message are missing.
    Before the fall, in Gen 2, God shares a “design feature” of us all, a feature pointing to most of our emotional, non physical but felt needs. God tells Adam it is “not good for the man to be alone.” Adam is in perfect relationship with God, but something is not good”. This points to man’s likeness to the three persons Of the trinity, made in our image”, rather than the father alone. Just as the greatest pain felt by Christ was caused by his separation from God the father as he hung on across, man was made with needs for intimacy in relationship with other humans. Thus Eve, marriage, family and family of God were created to solve this design of “not good to be alone”.
    The other bookend? Consider “A new commandment I give you, to love one another. By the way you love one another, the world will know you are my disciples. Love addresses aloneness by meeting those felt needs. Way beyond physical needs, Needs for attention, affection, appreciation, approval, acceptance, respect, security, comfort, encouragement, and support. Needs Christ addressed in his time here.
    Love that way first, as Christ loved, and the world will know we are different and we can tell them it is because we are disciples of Christ.
    Ive come to believe Andy Stanley at “North point ministries” gets this. Ive been listening to many of his series lately, and they seem to track with you here. Listen to the message series “Brand New” especially.

  • Brand New is indeed an excellent series! As are so many others of his. Many are worth a second and third listening.

  • Clint does this really well. It’s something I hope is rubbing off on me: calling out the beauty rather than the pain.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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