Jesus’ teaching that proclamation and social ministry are inseparable parts of the gospel needs to be “recalled, remembered and revived,” a leading Egyptian theologian and educator told the Covenanting Conference of the Fellowship of Presbyterians here Jan. 19.
Preaching from the ninth chapter of Luke, Atef Gendy, professor of New Testament and for the past 12 years president of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC), said Jesus sent out his disciples “to preach the kingdom of God and to heal. This was the message and ministry of Jesus,” he said.
“Preaching the good news is probably not good news for sinners,” Gendy said, “because God’s authority and reign over people is not what sinners want to hear.”
But healing, he added, “is good news for everyone, and it gives credibility to the message because when they see the love, justice and mercy of the kingdom, that’s when they believe it’s good news.
True mission, Gendy said, “is about passion and concern for people’s needs.”
He said: “For a minority church like ours in Egypt, I tell students the only way we can have a fruitful and safe existence is to demonstrate that we are useful, a blessing to the whole nation.”
The same is true in the U.S., Gendy said. “Incarnation is not about Christmas, it’s about going down to earth to meet the needs and troubles of the people. This is what Jesus expects of us.”
Speaking pointedly to the group ― which is launching a new denomination here called the Evangelical Covenant Order because of theological disputes with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ― Gendy said, “I love you and respect you for examining your theology and standing for the teaching of the Bible, but let me whisper in your ears that … everything is undermined if we speak about these things theoretically but don’t obey God’s will … beautiful theology must be lived.”
True mission refrains from competition and confrontation, Gendy said. When the disciples argued about who was the greatest among them and complained about an outsider who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name, he said Jesus reminded them ― “and the global church that it doesn’t matter which church, which denomination, which group is engaged. The point is to do Jesus’ will.”
Gendy cited a Muslim author in Egypt ― which has been troubled by extremist Muslim violence against Christians and Christian churches since last year’s “Arab Spring” ― “How can we hate those who love us, who are peacemakers, who pray for us even when we burn their churches.”
Gendy asked U.S. Presbyterians to continue to pray for the people and Christians of Egypt. “I thank God that he prevented us from doing any crazy action in retaliation,” he added.
“This is God’s way, the way of the cross.”