"Jesus died for our sins because he loved us!" I felt sorry for the poor girl who made that statement. I really did. Couldn't she see that she was trivializing God's glory by making mankind the source of his motivation? Yeah, saving us from our sins was part of the deal, but ultimately Jesus bore the weight of the cross out of obedience to the Father. Couldn't she see that her need for Jesus' actions to be based on love for us was actually a way of making God small?
I believed in a big God; a God who sought his own glory. I knew that Jesus died on the cross so that God the Father might be glorified in the salvation of the world. It may be nice to talk about other sources of motivation around the campfire on warm summer nights, but in the end God's glory is the most important thing at stake. I knew that God's glory was more important than even our salvation.
Only, a funny thing has happened over the years. I've noticed that a lot of the guys who helped write the Bible spoke more like that poor girl than like me. Paul consistently affirmed the glory of God as the ultimate end (Eph 1:6,11,12), but that never prevented him from defining his mission in human terms. Paul's reason for bringing the story of Jesus to the world was that the world might be saved (Acts 13:47,48). Moreover, in his answer he quoted a passage from Is 49 that described God rescuing and restoring his people. Paul later told King Agrippa that his mission was to open people's eyes so that they might receive forgiveness of sins, an inheritance, and be sactified by faith (Acts 26:18). Paul was not unique in his perspective; Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and others all spoke of the gospel in terms of human salvation.
Why does this matter? In my zeal to bring glory and honor to God I had twisted Jesus' obedience on the cross into a pass that excused me from concern for those around me. Somehow I transformed a desire to bring glory to God into a lifestyle that had little room for loving humanity. I had stumbled into this error by focusing on only one side of the issue.
There are two sides to every coin. The currency is no exception. We as evangelicals do well to focus on God's glory. But are we as consious of God's mission to the people around us as our Christian forefathers were? I know that for me, at least, the faces of humanity have become a blurred mass as I raced onward toward the glory of God.
Of course it cannot be one or the other. We cannot bring glory to God without allowing his love for people to transform our lives and relationships, especially with those who have not yet met him. On the other side of the coin, we cannot truly love people unless our lives are bringing glory to God. A myopic refusal to embrace both aspects of evangelism does not result in a bigger God. Any focus on glorifying God that minimizes his plan of salvation for the world is no true gospel.
And so the question: are we using the currency of the gospel to flip a coin, or are we spending it liberally on those around us? The best way to answer this isn't to ask ourselves--it's to ask those around us.