As the president of an institution with evangelical in its name, I’ve had many opportunities to reflect on the mixed legacy that comes with that word. If you don’t explain what you mean, others will fill in the meaning for you—and today, all too often, they will treat it as a synonym for “narrow-minded,” “fundamentalist,” “intolerant,” or even “hatemonger.” The hard truth is that those of us who have borne the label “evangelical” have not always put our best foot—or our best gospel—forward. We may have held to orthodoxy, but it has not necessarily been beautiful or full of grace.
What should we do? We could abandon the word altogether and leave it to its narrowest, most reactive partisans. Or we can reclaim it with fresh descriptions of what evangelical faith really can and does mean. To paraphrase Charles Dickens just a bit, we have a far, far better gospel and a far, far better Savior to offer this world than what they have heard from us at times. It is time to embrace the call to be boldly, broadly, and beautifully evangelical.
A gospel rooted in love is beautiful. And those who proclaim it are beautiful as well. Even their feet are beautiful, according to the prophet Isaiah: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation!” (Isa. 52:7).
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