The Greatest Tragedy

In our own small spheres of influence we know perhaps a hundred people. Some we know closely, and others we are just aquatinted to. If we really thought about it, most of us would be stunned at how many people we know whom we’re never given the gospel to. Personally, this thought of missing my opportunities struck me hard as I realized that I had not been doing my best. We must have a heart for the gospel, we must be compelled to preach the gospel, and we must be sharing this gospel that has been entrusted to us. The question is, are we doing that? The answer is simple: most of us are not. Yet there was one such man who was, and his name was Paul.

“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart,” Paul cries out in Romans 9. “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.”

Paul explains the reason for his passion for his fellow jewish brothers in 2 Corinthians 5 by teaching us about what must be compelling us to share the gospel.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

I know that is a lot, but I want to go step by step through this passage and examine it closely. There is so much there, especially when we consider the overwhelming theme of these two passages: a heart for preaching the gospel. Paul understood the message of the gospel, and he also understood that the greatest tragedy would be for someone you know to receive eternal damnation because you did not warn them of their coming danger. This thought of seeing his brothers, Israel, die in their sins, overwhelmed Paul to the point where he wished that he could be cursed and cut off from Christ. In other words, he wished that he could be condemned that they might live. Obviously this was not possible for Paul, since he was not perfect as Christ was when he took our place and punishment, but Paul understood that he could give his life for the gospel.

What compelled Paul to preach the gospel to everyone was Christ’s love. Now, that may be taken in the wrong light, but hang with me here. The message of the cross was twofold. It was a message that God hated sin, and his wrath that was meant for you and I was laid upon Christ. This is absolutely stunning that God loved the whole world so much that he gave his only Son to die in order that his wrath and his justice would be satisfied. God hates sin, and while we were in sin, we were enemies of God. Yet God provided the propitiation for our sin, and allows for our redemption and reconciliation with him, so that we no longer are enemies of God. Instead, we now live for Christ as a new creation in him. “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again.” This love must compel us to preach the gospel to everyone.

We have now been committed with the message of the gospel. In Christ, we are now ambassadors of the gospel, almost as if God were making an appeal through us. Sadly, many do not speak. Instead, we are quiet, silent, apathetic. Yet I appeal to you with an overflowing heart like Paul: can you face that friend, that neighbor, that relative on the day of judgment? Can you look them in the eye when they ask you “Why didn’t you warn me?” So many faces come to my mind, and I wish I could go to them at this very moment, and pull them aside and beg them, warn them plead with them to be reconciled with God! It is a message that we must be preaching as those who have been trusted with a pearl of great price.

The tragedy of seeing someone go to hell is worse than any 9/11 or any Katrina. We must have a heart for the gospel, we must be compelled to preach the gospel, and we must be sharing this gospel that has been entrusted to us. The action cannot stop at the heart. It cannot stop at the place where you spirit is compelled. We must take the action of sharing this gospel, this message of reconciliation, of a God who has given life to those who deserve death. We must go into all the world, showing them their failure to keep the law of God, allowing God to convict them of their sin, and then we must share the glorious cross that we do not deserve, yet has been given to us. We must not allow the greatest tragedy to strike our lives.

3 responses to “The Greatest Tragedy”

  1. When someone goes to hell it is not tragedy. That is not how the bible describes it. When someone goes to hell, it is justice.

    Our evangelism should be partly outcome focused – what is the best sort of evangelism that will lead to the best result? Harranging people in the street about Jesus is less likely to save someone than a continual witness to a friend or family member.

  2. Tim says:

    One Salient: If someone going to hell is not a tragedy, why should we be witnessing? Is there really any reason? Should we get in the way of justice? Paul certainly did not think so, as his heart was full of anguish over the thought of his brethren going to hell. That was, and still is, a tragic thought.

    Now, I’m not sure what you mean by “harranging” people in the street. Street evangelism, in my experience, is far more “effective” than “friendship evangelism.” We should be witnessing the same way to those we meet on the street and those who we already know: showing them their sin by showing them the law of God, warning them of what they deserve (hell), and presenting the gospel to them, pleading with them to repent and put their faith in Christ.

  3. We witness because we are commanded to by Christ. When Jesus gave the great commission in Matt 28 he didn’t couch it in terms of tragedy. Yes Paul was filled with anguish

    Street evangelism, in my experience, is far more “effective” than “friendship evangelism.”

    This is where we’ll disagree. For about 18 months I was involved in university campus evangelism where we went around and talked to people about Christ. Most of the time we were waved off. It’s not as though God didn’t use it but I felt it was a waste of time generally. My sister and one of my work colleagues became Christians through long-term witness.

    It’s about relationships. The gospel will shine through more effectively in the lives of Christians as they relate with their friends and family.

    Of course, it doesn’t discount “street evangelism” or the fact that God can use it. It’s just that I think there are more effective ways of evangelism.

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