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By Bill Hybels
Pastor Raushenbush was right in predicting that he and I would feel essentially the same way on the Sandwich/Jesus issue. Stretching the metaphor a bit, I would add that the acid test for whether a person has indeed eaten the “Jesus” sandwich is whether or not he or she is then motivated to spend every day until the dying day offering both sandwiches—salvation and sustenance—to as many hungry people as possible.
One of the great joys of my life has been to pastor a church that is unusually intentional about reaching people far from God. For 32 years now, I have had a front-row seat to observe how lost people get found and how found people get grown up. In my experience, the sandwich question is irrefutably answered as the Holy Spirit does his sanctifying work in the heart and mind of a freshly-redeemed person. What I mean by that is in virtually every case, when I see a life get transformed by the atoning work of Christ, it is not long before that new believer sees the plight of the poor.
Usually within months of a person’s salvation experience, there is both a sincere desire to pass on the message of Christ to any and all, and an equally intense desire to do whatever is necessary in the name of Christ to eradicate injustice, relieve oppression, and alleviate suffering of any kind. Selfless service of this sort isn’t normal according to human nature; purely and simply, the desires are born out of the work of the Holy Spirit.
My point is that if new Christ-followers were not misguided by those who force an either-or mindset to the sandwich question, I am quite sure that the Holy Spirit himself would lead them eventually to adopt a both-and approach.
In my teaching and leadership over the past several years, I have relied on two words to help keep our congregation at Willow Creek balanced on these issues: redeem and restore. I love how those two words fall phonetically, but more important, I love how they fall theologically. There’s nothing better than to see new believers around our church begin to weave those words into their everyday vocabulary; better still is when they begin to live them out in their everyday lives.