If you have been in Christian circles for any amount of time, then you know that the term “gospel” is a part of our everyday lexicon. It should be, considering it represents the hope and distinctiveness of Christianity. The Gospel articulates the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, the redemptive nature of his love, and the inheritance of an eternal family and life. Here is the problem…the Gospel isn’t as clean and neat as we have made it out to be.
While there are lots of books on this topic, my goal in writing this post isn’t to give a treatise on this subject: merely to share an observation, especially during this unprecedented season of life filled with fear, loss, and hatred.
It’s messy because God wants me to love the unlovable and bless those who persecute me.
It’s uncomfortable because He wants me to grab a cross and hoist it upon my shoulder.
It demands everything: my life, my goals, my dreams, my time, my passions, my hobbies, my education
It demands me to offer forgiveness even when it’s not deserved.
It requires me to move beyond just tolerating people to truly loving them.
It draws me out of my comfort zone.
It encourages me to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
It pushes me to ensure justice for those being crushed and extend mercy and grace to those who do not deserve it.
It prunes the branches that are not only dead in my life, but the ones that are bearing fruit.
It urges me to serve by kneeling and grabbing some water and a cloth to wash feet that are dirty.
As pastor and author David Platt reminds us about the gospel, “it demands radical sacrifice.”
If this is true of the gospel, then why is it good news? For this simple reason “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)
I saw that back when I was the Executive Director at Monadnock Christian Ministries. There were times when I wanted to replace our “Welcome Home” sign with “Triage Unit” or “Emergency Room.” The brokenness was very real, and I am not just talking about the guests we served. The more we served others and the more we pointed others to the cross, the more I realized how broken I was, the more I realized how much I fall short and how much it cost Him.
A few years ago, I went on a trip to Haiti with Love in Motion ministry (now a part of Mission E4). The whole experience really brought this to light for me. Because of my work with at-risk families, I am very familiar with US poverty. Going to Port Au Prince was overwhelming for me because of the plight and needs of the Haitian people, especially their children. It’s one reason why we sponsor a child through Mission E4.
But seeing it firsthand changed me.
One situation while we were down there that really hit home for me was witnessing true street orphans, in which I saw 2 young girls surviving on the street that were the same age as my daughters. Paul Deasy, who at the time was our director of Love in Motion, had shared with me that some of the girls recently brought into the orphanage had been sexually abused and/or raped. As I came face to face with them I saw they were wearing dresses that were way too big for them and dirt smeared across their faces. I knew they were going to sleep tonight without the protection and safety of a family, of a father, and without hope.
The choice for me from this experience is to simply ignore the ramifications and say, “How can I do anything about that?” and move on…or I can allow The Gospel, in all its beauty and messiness make me uncomfortable. You see, If the Gospel isn’t radically changing me, is it truly the Gospel? If I have good news to share and I am unwilling to share it, does it mean I never received it? If I cannot do what Christ did: leave his home and comfort and to take on the grief and sin of this world, to bind the wounds of the broken, provide a voice to those who are marginalized, to love my enemy, has the Gospel truly changed me? These are hard questions for me to not only ask myself but to ask God. But I have to ask them. And not only should I ask these questions but I have to find ways through my actions and words to share with others that the Gospel is the only answer to the fear, doubts and hate we see in our world today.
How about you? How is the Gospel radically changing your perspective about who you are and the world around you? My fear is that many young people are walking away from truth because they see the hypocrisy of our faith rather than the hope it provides. The Gospel has answers to the messiness of our world and our lives. The Gospel wasn’t meant to avoid the mess but to embrace it. Just like Jesus did…His life modeled for us the messiness of loving people all the way to a cross and empty grave. This example would eventually become the good news we know today. We see this beautifully illustrated for us in Philippians 2 :
“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminals death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.“
I love these words. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.”
Jesus chose the messy path.
He chose your mess.
He wasn’t afraid of it. In fact, He is going to redeem it.
He is going to make your mess beautiful and he did it the way of a cross.
During these trying days, when there seems to be so much brokenness, fear and evil, the God we serve is calling us into the difficult and uncomfortable reality of this messy world so that we may see and experience the good news. He isn’t calling us into it because we have it all figured out. On the contrary, He is calling us into it because we are his billboard for what he can do with a messy and broken life. This messy world is depending on the Gospel’s beautiful and redemptive power.