Before you warn about danger first make sure there’s an ark ready

Noah was called by God to be a witness to the world around d him as the day of judgement drew near and the Flood was about to come.  It’s clear from the New Testament that Noah was preaching to the people, warning them of coming danger. This warning came through the fact that he was preparing his own means of safety but also presumably because he was speaking (none of that “witness and where necessary use words” nonsense. Words were always necessary!).

However, the words of warning, the calls to repentance were only possible because Noah was building the Ark.  There was no point warning of judgement if there was no way out from it.  The message needed both the bad news and the good news.

Sometimes we are so keen to bring a positive message of good news, we want to tell people about Jesus and his wonderful love that we forget that it is only good news because it follows on from the bad news, the fact that sin places us under God’s wrath, facing his judgement.  It is meaningless to talk about compassion, mercy and forgiveness without telling people why they need compassion, what it is they need forgiveness from.  It would have been meaningless for Noah to invite people onto the ark without the warning of coming cataclysm. 

However, there is the risk that we can go too far the other way as well. Some people, like Jonah seem to enjoy bringing the message of judgement that they stop short of the good news.  I think we can see this in a couple of ways.  A few times over the years I’ve seen reports of people getting themselves arrested for street preaching.  Now, I am a firm believer in free speech and so the idea that people can get arrested for saying what God’s Word says is alarming.  However, at times, it seems that they were so keen to focus on controversial issues, often focusing on things that are unlikely to be the particular temptation of most passers-by.  They seem to have a martyrs complex.  If your message is more likely to get you arrested than give you the opportunity to respond to the question “what must I do to be saved” then I’m not convinced that you are preaching the Gospel.

Sometimes we can preach the message so that we include the good news of the Cross and forgiveness but it feels like it has been tagged on at the end.  People stopped listening long ago. Instead of being pricked to the heart, they are bludgeoned over the head.

So, it is important when preaching the Gospel that we make it clear that the ark is ready and that w point people to it. For us, the ark is Jesus, his death and resurrection.

At the same time, I think we can apply this point to other situations.  It can be possible for people to be in danger, not from eternal judgement but from getting themselves into a mess in this life.  This can be about one to one pastoral situations.  It can also be about people endangering their spiritual well being by being at an unhealthy church.  It can also be about whole churches and networks. 

It is important that when we seek to warn people pastorally that we don’t just go in with the warning. We may consider ourselves to be like the Old Testament prophets. However, with that exception of Jonah, most of the prophets were seen to offer both the warning and the promise of hope and salvation.  So, we too need to make sure that those mini-arks are built, that there is a practical way forward for people to find grace, help and safety.

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