The Embrace of the Self-Giving Christ
A Trinitarian foundation for evangelism begins with God’s initial self-giving in creation, and extends to God’s self-giving in Jesus Christ. At the heart of our faith is the belief that God became human in Jesus, and in Jesus, the redemption of all creation has begun. This is important for evangelism because it highlights God’s faithfulness, not just to humanity, but to the entire physical universe. The destiny of the whole world is tied up in Jesus Christ. Thus, redemption is not the process of being redeemed from creation. Creation is not something that needs to be escaped or destroyed for a new creation to come into existence. What God created, God called very good. Our Wesleyan tradition emphasizes this. Therefore, redemption is the redeeming of creation, where all of creation (not only human beings) is perfected and restored to its intended integrity and wholeness and where God’s holy love is in all and over all.
God’s self-giving in Jesus Christ becomes an even clearer model to ground evangelism when we recognize the dual themes made evident in the cross. As our crucified Lord, Jesus stands in solidarity with all who have suffered, while at the same time offering atonement to all who have sinned and fallen short. In other words, God’s self-donation is for both the oppressed and the oppressor, the perpetrator and the victim. It is impossible to understand the fullness of God’s self-giving love without both aspects. It is impossible as well to understand the holistic nature of evangelism without these twin themes. Christ’s self-giving love overcomes human hatred while at the same time creating space within Christ to receive estranged humanity. These two dimensions, the giving of self and the receiving of the other, are intrinsic to the internal life of the Trinity and, therefore, form the foundation for authentic evangelism.
The life and death of Jesus Christ reveal a crucial pattern for us: radical obedience to God and selfless love toward other people. As we explore the essential values of evangelism, we will not discover a mandate to perform certain deeds or learn particular doctrines. We will discover a pattern laid out for us in the life and death of Jesus.