Shout it from the rooftops
I was recently talking about open-air preaching. Someone responded:
“Do you have to bother people with this stuff? Can’t you just stick inside the churches.”
This man (not a Christian) perfectly expresses the spirit of the age. We are happy with privatised beliefs. We are content that folks practice their personal piety behind closed doors. At the same time we fiercely protect public space as a neutral zone which is supposedly free from all particular truth claims. We are happy for advertisers to sell us things when we walk out the door. Commerce is allowed in public and no-one needs to argue for it. But virtually everything else must meekly seek permission. Preaching the consumerist gospel won’t attract opposition. But preaching the Christian gospel will. Very soon we will be told to “stick inside the churches.”
Such a commitment to the privatisation of beliefs is not itself religiously neutral. It is the enforcement of a very particular secularist agenda. But Jesus will have nothing to do with it. He says:
“There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.” (Matthew 10:26-27)
What could be more private than your house? And yet Jesus says “Don’t close the door and shut in the truth. Climb onto your house and publish the truth. Your roof is not a prison to confine your beliefs. It is a platform to confess them! Even your abode is not private – it’s a pulpit. We do not have a privatised faith but a proclaimed faith.”
How could it be any other way? As they say, Good news is for sharing. And that’s not just something for us to live by. God’s own Truth is an audience-seeking reality. From the beginning God has had a Word. He has always had an outgoing Expression. And He has not kept His Word to Himself. He has created a whole cosmos to be a hearer of His Word. “Every creature which is under heaven” has the gospel of His Son preached to them (Colossians 1:23). From His own “holy habitation” God shouts from the rooftops. His Word is always audience-seeking. Therefore to have the Word means heralding the Word. It’s true for God, it must be true for us.
The Truth will out. In every sense imaginable – the Truth will out. If we don’t feel something of the outgoing impulse inherent in the gospel, we haven’t yet heard it as we ought. We have a faith to be shouted from the rooftops.
Let’s leave the final word to George MacLeod. When he thought about the lengths to which the Word has gone to meet us in our darkness, he couldn’t help but recommend an outgoing, public proclamation of this Word:
“I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the centre of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write his title in Hebrew and Latin and in Greek; at the kind of place where cynics talk smut and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where he died. And that is what he died about. And that is where churchmen ought to be, and what churchmen ought to be about.”