Evangelism In The Light Of A Vulnerable God -- By: Kosuke Koyama
FM 2:2 (Spring 1985) p. 70
Evangelism In The Light Of A Vulnerable God
Professor of Ecumenics and World Christianity
Union Theological Seminary, New York
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord; “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord...” (Jer. 7:1–2).
The subject of this meditation is “how” to engage ourselves in evangelism. This question relating the “how” (method) to evangelism must be enlightened by the “what” (content) of the gospel. In God “how” and “what” are one. It will be my contention that the God to whom the Bible bears witness is not invulnerable, as we might expect, but vulnerable because God’s strength is love. If this is true, the richness of the gospel can only be seen through the paradox of vulnerable strength and our method of evangelism must also reflect the “vulnerable” mind of God. How can this be understood today, when the whole world is worshipping the idol of invulnerability? This meditation is centered on the understanding that according to the Biblical perception, invulnerability is a sign of weakness, while vulnerability is that of strength. Jesus Christ “negotiates” the salvation of humanity on the cross from what would appear by our normal standards to be a “position of weakness.” Let me begin our thought with Jeremiah.
Jeremiah stands “in the gate of the Lord’s house.” All around him are people entering the gates to worship. There “in the gate” he is commanded to communicate the gospel. What an unsettling place for him to proclaim the word of the Lord! His audience is not sitting attentively in the pews. How can he get anyone’s attention there? Scholars have called Jeremiah 7:1–15 “the temple sermon,” but to be precise, it was preached “in the gate of the Lord’s house.” He stands on the spot between “outside the temple” and “in the temple.” We may say that he stands between the two kinds of security we enjoy: the security of our outer or profane life and that of our inner or spiritual life. We are always trying, outside the temple and inside the temple, to secure for ourselves some measure of invulnerability. But when we are in transition between these systems, when we are going through the gate, we become momentarily exposed and vulnerable. The time of “transition” is an uneasy moment in which we feel “naked.” We are without the protection of our ideologies. By ideology I mean a comprehensive network of human emotion, thought, and strategy to secure ourselves. Through mythology, philosophy, and religion we build ourselve...
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