To them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. - Galatians 2:5
I love this. Paul fought against corrupting the Gospel so that he would be able to preserve it for the sake of people he loved and cared about. In this example, Paul fought against people (Jews, Gnostics, etc) but I think I can more broadly expand this out.
The struggle I have most often in youth ministry is not contaminating the Gospel with legalism. I think underage drinking, vaping, smoking weed, and looking at porn are all sinful. And nearly all of my students do nearly all of these things nearly all of the time. (A moderate but not extreme exaggeration.) I think most pastors would say there needs to be “tough love” and we need to call them out and challenge them to do better. And I don’t disagree that there is a time and place for that.
But the Gospel isn’t that you should stop vaping. The Gospel isn’t that you have a list of rules to follow or God will hate you. The Gospel is that Jesus loves you and has done the unthinkable to make the unimaginable a reality. Perry Noble tonight said that he believes each person’s life would be better if Jesus were the center. I couldn’t agree more.
Changed behaviors don’t beget changed hearts. But changed hearts do … Gradually … Change lives. I can’t contaminate the Gospel with what I think this means for your life. All I can do is share the amazing love of Christ and let him do what is right.
Last time I hung out with this one particular student, he told me that once upon a time he believed in God. But he thought that God didn’t care about him, and so he didn’t care about God. He told me that all changed when he met me. Now he does believe that God not only cares about him, but he loves him.
I asked what exactly caused that light to switch in his life and he couldn’t point to any thing specific. I told him it was Ephesians 3:19. He experienced the Love of Christ though he did not and never will fully understand it. He got to experience it through me. And through so many other people.
That’s the Gospel that needs to be preserved. That’s what Paul is talking about.
Adapted from a journal entry from May, 2016.