Norfolk. The Gospel. And You.
As a member of the church here in Norfolk, Virginia, I really believe that part of the work of the gospel is to help build cities that thrive and flourish. God is deeply invested in the lives of all of his people and works for the common good by raising up philanthropists and social organizers, giving rise to mercy and justice, making the workplace more ethical and humane, creating art that is hopeful, supporting race relations that are just, and building neighborhoods and schools that are healthy and safe. But it starts with you. When you are impacted and changed by the gospel, it doesn’t just transform your heart, it also transforms your mind. And it’s through that radical change of God’s beautiful grace in Christ that you are lead powerfully towards justice. It’s seen time and time again throughout the bible and history.
Unrolling the scroll, he (Jesus) found the place where it is written: The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release darkness for the prisoners.
And here we are. In Norfolk, Virginia, touched by grace in Christ. What do we do with the love of the Father that comes spilling out? Do we simply struggle through our daily lives, allowing daily news cycles and political elections determine our hopes and sorrows, or do we move with our heads lifted up towards heaven hopeful for the coming kingdom? As believers who find both Jesus and the Bible to be a trustworthy guide for our lives and the world, we really can look forward with great hope and joy as culture makers and disciples. In Luke, we see Jesus identifying himself as the servant of the Lord, which was prophesied in Isaiah, a servant who would bring justice to his people. And what most modern Christians forget is that Jesus did not just come to bring salvation, forgiveness and grace; a true and complete experience of Jesus’ grace is being forgiven and then moved to seek justice in God’s world.
As we turn the corner away from the individualistic and personal salvation bent that the American church has taken for the good part of the last century, we can focus the attention of the gospel on to our neighbors and our city. Living next to our neighbors, working with our colleagues, spending time with our friends and families, we can express and create culture that is rooted in the gospel and transforms our city. Because as believers, we know that the gospel does more than just change individual lives, it saturates communities of people and lets the whole city flourish. This means that we need to actively saturate not only ourselves with the gospel, but each other. We need to rise up as leaders in our church and in our communities. We need to go to church on Sundays and work on Mondays filled with a hope that pushes past politics and elections and reaches into how we spend our time, who we spend it with, and where we spend our money. Are we invested in God’s call for mercy and justice? Racial reconciliation? Making disciples of all nations? How do you infect our culture with the gospel through your work, your art, your writing, your children, your home, and your time, to create a community that is saturated with gospel hope?
It’s time for the church to rise. It’s time for us to recognize the transformative power of the gospel through us in our city and rise. You are the culture maker. The gospel carrier. The neighbor. The coworker. The artist. How are you saturating Norfolk with the gospel? How are you making disciples and being discipled? Because God’s story is one that includes Norfolk, the Gospel and You. There is no election or politician that can change that story. So, friends, what is next for us? We’ve been chosen to be in God’s plan and his story. Will we sit and watch the rest of the world work for the common good? Or will we rise and saturate our beautiful city with the gospel for the common good of his people to let our city flourish? I hope you rise.