Today I stopped in a little shop here in Ramona just to look around. Someone who had been shopping around came up from behind me to comment on my shirt. I was wearing our Youth Group T-Shirt on which Revelation 22:3, where it says "no longer will there be any more curse...," is printed. The verse goes along with our theme of the year which is "reverse the curse" which is all about hope and taking history in a different direction, in the direction of Christ's resurrection, reversing the patterns of destruction wherever we see them. By our theme our group is seeking to offer hope to people and a sense of mission to the church.
The lady walked up behind me, read the verse aloud, and said, "I like your shirt... Read mine..." On her shirt she wore a button which read, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. _Hebrews 4:13." As I read it she said, "convicted? Should convict a lot of people huh?" The message on my shirt was about hope and the message on her shirt was about conviction, yet she still assumed we were on the same page because we both sported Bible verses. Conviction was the bottom line for her--fostering a sort of fear that if we mess up God's gonna be keeping track like Santa Clause, making his list and checking it twice. "Convicted?..."
Just what is our message to the world? Are we out to make people anxious? To tell them that God's after them and that they should be "convicted" and looking over their shoulder around every corner? Or is our message a declaration of hope to a world that is drenched in hopelessness? What is the gospel? Hope or conviction?
God's open-armed welcome to us should stand as our only true conviction. God's willingness to embrace us no matter how broken we have become should beacon us into loving fellowship. It is precisely the hope we proclaim which should entice and draw the world in toward God's kingdom.