Beware the person of a single book and beware of issue Christians. We must not be Christians who make one thing our main thing, unless that one thing is the gospel of Jesus which then impacts how we view everything. The gospel must impact how we view everything and there are issues that will be extremely important, but those issues cannot handle the weight of being the single thing or the main thing in a church. Tim Keller wrote, “Because the gospel is endlessly rich, it can handle the burden of being the one “main thing” of a church.” Nothing but the gospel can handle the weight and pressure of being a church’s main thing. Here are three observations about the man with a single book, about “issue Christians” (a term Ed coined).
Perhaps you understand where they were coming from. For you, Christmas reminds you of the loved one no longer sitting at your table, of the broken relationship that should have lasted forever, of the ongoing illness that continues to wrack your body with pain. Even if you aren’t in a season of suffering, you probably know and love people who are. As Victor Hugo once wrote, “Those who do not weep, do not see.” Brokenness seems to be the heart language of the world, and while some of us speak that language more fluently than others, we all learn to speak it eventually.
But why does it matter that Jesus was a man who actually lived in history? Out of many reasons, I will mention three. First, as a Christian historian once wrote, Jesus’ birth and saving work in “the particular culture of first-century Judaism suggests something – if only a dim shape within a mystery – about the dignity of human actions and perspective rooted in very specific historical circumstances” (Mark Noll, “The Potential of Missiology for the Crises of History,” in History and the Christian Historian, 122). Since God became a man who lived in a particular time and place, we can be more confident that He cares about the particulars of our time – whether about the fall and rise of nations or about the struggles of a family or church in rural Missouri.
A well-read public figure was recently asked about what modern fiction he reads, and he replied that he only makes time for older fiction in his life right now—books that have stood the test of time. Not surprisingly, his preference was criticized. One person even claimed that this choice was a failure of neighbor love (despite the fact that the figure is actively involved in his own community).
Judy Wu Dominick:
Looking back, it’s not surprising it happened. I was in the midst of a major identity shift that was changing the way I saw myself and how I fit in the world. After learning previously unknown stories of my family, I had come to embrace my Taiwanese heritage—a development that caused me to abandon many of my long-held beliefs about race, class, money, power, and social responsibility. The opinions and ideas that had once fostered solidarity between my husband, Peter, and me were now a source of friction.