|The recent hanging of Saddam Hussein as a news story has seen its zenith come and go. As predicted there has been outrage and eulogizing from Saddam loyalists to smiles and elation from those who despised and experienced the brutality which characterized his dictatorship. One sentiment that is scarcely seen is sadness. You just don’t find many pictures of bitter weeping and mourning his death, though there are a few. To put it bluntly, many people hated him. There is one account throughout the whole event that caught my interest. It has been reported that just before the floor dropped out of the gallows he was reciting the “‘Shahada,’ a Muslim prayer that says there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger, according to an unabridged copy of the same tape, apparently shot with a camera phone and posted on a Web site. Saddam made it to midway through his second recitation of the verse. His last word was Muhammad” (“Saddam Hussein’s Brutal Reign Ends in the Gallows“). He died with the wrong name on his lips as he entered eternity. He now knows salvation is not in Allah and Muhammad but in the true and only God, Yahweh, and His Son Jesus Christ.I felt in my heart an odd sort of compassion for the former dictator of Iraq. A compassion that he did not know the One before whom he would stand in judgment in a few breaths. This was a very pointed reminder that anyone who dies without Christ will spend an eternity in hell, whether they were a vile dictator or a morally upright person. Though many people hated him, God loved him enough to send His Son to die for his sins – and yours, and mine (John 3:16). It was a grim yet necessary reminder that we need to view our neighbors, our friends, perhaps our family, the cashier in the grocery store, the waitress at a restaurant, the co-worker who sits next to us, the vendors with whom we do business as sinners who are perishing unless they appropriate the person and work of Christ by faith for their sins. This is the good news of the gospel. Those who do not hear or receive it will also die with the wrong name on their lips.
We take heart in the gospel for it remains “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). However, how does the gospel go forth? God has chosen us to be His mouthpiece (Romans 10:14). The word of God will go forth and accomplish its purpose in each heart as God chooses. Augustine said “The locked up heart cannot keep you out. No matter how hard and stiff a man’s heart may be, it cannot resist the touch of your hand. You unlock it whenever you wish, whether for mercy or for justice” (Augustine, Confessions, 5:1). What greater confidence can we have in the gospel than the fact that God goes before it? Duty is ours to share the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:20), conversion belongs to God by justifying the sinner (Romans 3:26).
Why then has the evangelical church become so determined to add garnish to the gospel (as if it needs it)? How about living a life that becomes the gospel (Philippians 1:27) so that the power of the gospel is evident in our lives. The witness of a life truly changed by the gospel is far more powerful than a power team who throws, lifts, jerks, and squats thousands of pounds to “wow” people into listening to the gospel. The Thessalonians admonish us that the responsibility to spread the gospel rests upon all Christians not just the “professionals” (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8). Let us be reminded the simplicity of the gospel trumps Madison Avenue-the pure, simple, beautiful, powerful gospel can change lives in the 21st century just as it did in the 1st century. Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”