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  • Writer's pictureTuezong Xiong

Gospel Lens Revisited, Ten Years In



Shoulders of Giants


I suppose we all stand on the shoulders of giants who went before us, don’t we? I’m not even aware of all the giants I should be thanking, but there’s one in particular that has helped me better understand the world and to love and worship the God who created it through his Word. I am grateful to McYoung Yang because his writings and teachings have influenced me to live my life through what he calls the “Gospel Lens.”


The Genesis of Gospel Lens


Its development traces back to around 2013 when McYoung transitioned from being the youth pastor at Twin Cities Hmong Alliance Church (TCHAC) to becoming the youth pastor at Hmong American Alliance Church (HAAC). During that period, he enrolled in a class at Bethel Seminary and read a paper about worldview. Prior to this, McYoung had begun contemplating how the gospel defies categorization and shapes every aspect of life. However, he lacked the language to articulate these thoughts.


When the Bethel professor taught conversion from a sociological standpoint, emphasizing that conversion occurs at the worldview level, McYoung had an epiphany. The term “worldview” became clear to him at that moment. Inspired by what he had learned from the classroom, he began crafting the vision statement for HAAC and penned: “Helping students live life through the Gospel Lens.” The concept of the Gospel Lens took shape.


This marked the moment when everything started falling into place, providing McYoung with the language to convey his ideas. He rightly recognized that there is no such thing as a spiritual side to the Christian life and then a secular side to the Christian life. Rather, the gospel encapsulates everything.


In 2015, McYoung summoned the courage to start a blog titled “Gospel Lens,” hoping to share with others the realities—or the Reality—that he was witnessing. From then on, many, including myself, eagerly awaited every new article.


What Is Gospel Lens, Really?


But what is the Gospel Lens, really? Perhaps it might be helpful to ask, what are glasses for? Not mainly to protect the eyes from dust and other unwanted particles. I think this quote from C. S. Lewis provides a good starting point in understanding what it means to see all of life through the Gospel Lens: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”


Now when you look closely at the context of the quote, Lewis was pushing back against the naturalistic worldview that reigned in his day (and still is in many ways) and argues that Christianity—the Gospel Lens—is the only worldview that allows us to make sense of reality. It’s seeing the world with God as the ultimate reality.


Think of the Gospel Lens as a pair of glasses (hence its name). I like having glasses because they help me see my surroundings. Without them, it would be hard for me to make sense of the world around me. However, not every pair of glasses I’ve ever owned was great. I once had a pair of cheap glasses where the anti-glare coating came off, making my glasses blurry and cloudy and rendering it impossible to drive in rainy conditions.


So what makes a good pair of glasses? A good pair of glasses helps you see the world accurately. In the same way, a worldview is good if it accurately describes the world as it really is.


The Key to Understanding God’s World and Word


If a worldview is only as good as it accords with reality, it begs the question: By what standard? Because to say that something is good or gets better implies a standard, or that something is best. Another way to ask the question is: How do we know if we are seeing and thinking rightly about God, ourselves, and the world? 


If God is the Creator, Designer, and Ultimate Reality, it only makes sense that his revelation should become the basis and frame by which we, his image bearers, think and act in his created world. And God makes himself known through his world and Word. The former we call general or natural revelation, and the latter we call special revelation. Both speak with one voice to give us true knowledge of our Creator God.


Yet special revelation (i.e., Scripture) is the ultimate authority on all matters upon which it speaks (2 Tim. 3:16–17), and here’s the key: Scriptures testify to Jesus


In John 5:39–40, Jesus gives the Jewish leaders of his day this fundamental lesson in hermeneutics that every reader of Scripture should keep in view: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”


In Luke 24:44–45, Jesus tells his disciples that Scripture has been about him all along. “Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”


What does this mean? It means that Christ is our hermeneutical key. We can't properly understand God’s Word—and I'd argue God’s world as well—unless we interpret it Christocentrically. God has woven together trajectories and themes in his world and Word that find their fulfillment in the person of Christ (Col. 1:16–17; 1 Cor. 10:31). When our minds and hearts grasp the value of Christ and his ways above all things, in all things, we are able to see reality for what it is (Phil. 3:7–8).


Seeing life through the Gospel Lens is the only way to make sense of the world around us. It makes sense of things like funerals, attending (or not attending) weddings, giving bread to the homeless, playing tickle fights with your kids, savoring Hmong sausage, and strolling around Lake Phalen.


Show, Don’t Tell


Instead of telling you what it means to live life through the Gospel Lens, I think it would be more helpful to show what it might look like. What does it look like to live life through the Gospel Lens?


When you attend the funeral of a loved one and feel the sting of death, you weep until your eyes can weep no more because it hurts as much as it’s worth. But then you lift your eyes up to the hills—to Calvary Hill—and you see your help (Ps. 121:1–2). You recall the beautiful truth that for those who are in Christ, death does not have the last say. Death has been dethroned by the One who was resurrected as the firstborn among many brothers (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:54–57; Heb. 2:14–15). Suddenly, tears of sorrow and joy fill your eyes (2 Cor. 6:10) as you anticipate the day when God will wipe away every tear and make all things new (Rev. 21:4–5).


When you’re invited to a so-called “LGBTQ+ wedding,” you humbly decline, recognizing that attending a wedding ceremony is affirming the union in question and that love aims at truth (1 Cor. 13:6). You see through the ill-conceived notion that attending such ceremonies belongs in the same category as “Jesus eating with sinners” because eating with other sinners doesn’t constitute an endorsement of moral rebellion. You recall that Christ clearly affirmed the reality of male and female as well as the male-female pattern of marriage (Matt. 19:4–6). The Lord of all Creation decreed that pattern in order to preserve the typological symbolism of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31–33).


When you come across a homeless man and you offer to buy him bread, and you seize the opportunity to tell him about the good news of Jesus Christ because, at heart, we’re all just beggars showing other beggars where to get the true Bread (John 6:35).


When you come home from a long day’s work and you’re tempted to burden your family with a frustrated and heavy presence, you recall the high calling of husbandhood and fatherhood. You remember that as you walk through that front door, you will either tell the truth about what God is like, or you will lie. Grace floods you in that moment, and you sprint through the door, grab your son, and engage in tickle warfare. Then you ask your wife how you can best serve her that evening, and when it’s all said and done, as you lay next to your wife in bed, you’re reminded afresh that “as a father has compassion on his children, so does the Lord have compassion on you” (Ps. 103:13), and that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).


The Future of Gospel Lens


Though the term “Gospel Lens” may not be new, nor is the concept new, McYoung, in God’s gracious providence, brought its teaching to fresh light. Gospel Lens was a refreshing oasis in the desert of syncretism, nominalism, and pragmatism within the Hmong Christian context—a time when a demon could be found behind every bush and a time when pastors swallowed goldfish by the dozens in a bid to attract more people to their churches. Let the reader understand.


So, what does the future of Gospel Lens depend on? It depends on those who embrace it because they see it in God’s inerrant and authoritative Word. It depends on those who feel a burden for perishing sinners. It depends on those who won’t fall prey to false teaching. It depends on those who desire to see all of Christ in all of life. But ultimately, Gospel Lens depends on the God of the gospel, and I believe that the Gospel Lens is here to stay because the God of the gospel is here to stay.



 

Tuezong Xiong is an M.Div. graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary and writes regularly at tuezongxiong.wordpress.com. He, along with his wife, Pa Kou, resides in Circle Pines with their two sons.

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