Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the Gospel. In the last month, I’ve written about 20 entries and at least half have had something to do with the word Gospel. You have to be careful when you use, it means different things to different people. For some, it’s an adjective to be used with truth. You know, like “gospel truth” or “His word is gospel. T0 others, it refers to the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John from the New Testament of the Bible. For me, it’s a way of working to bring the Kingdom of Heaven here to earth. Gospel comes from the Old English word gōd-spell which meant good news or glad tidings. Gōd-spell, in turn, is a calque of the Greek word “euangelion” (also the source of the word “evangelism”) which translates as good message. Gospel picked up that literary association through its inclusion in the titles of the four Gospels of the New Testament. Before that, however, it was about the redemption offered to the world through Jesus’ self-sacrificial act on the cross. While the first New Testament Gospel (Mark) wasn’t written until around 70 A.D., the term had been used by the Apostle Paul as early as 53 A.D. in his first letter to the Corinthians, saying
“Brothers and sisters, I want to call your attention to the good news that I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand.”
The Gospel was and is, pure and simple, a message of good news to the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. Since I don’t meet any of those criteria, I’ve come to realize it isn’t so much a message for me to hear; it’s a message for me to spread.
Unfortunately, that message has been adulterated, watered down and emasculated to practically meaningless words in dry and dusty book that many people pay lip service to, but not that many actually live by. In the sermon I listened to yesterday, the pastor mentioned a story where a man was asked why he went to church and the fellow responded “So everyone can see whose side I’m on”. Sometimes, that’s the only way you can tell whose side some Christians might be on. If the Gospel is, indeed, good news, then the essence of that news is love. Love God, love your neighbor, love your enemy, Jesus wouldn’t shut up about love. Yet, the messages coming out of some churches is one of exclusion, even hate. In west Tennessee last month, a gay man and his partner were physically assaulted in a church parking lot by deacons of that church. In Tempe Arizona, there’s a church where the pastor openly talks of his hatred of gay people, saying “I do hate homosexuals and if hating homosexuals makes our church a hate group then that’s what we are.” Where’s the love in that? In Romans 12:2, Paul said
” Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.”
It seems things are reversed, like a fan motor that’s wired up backwards and blows in the wrong direction. The Gospel isn’t transforming minds, minds are conforming the Gospel. There is hope, however. There are people out there who see the Gospel not as words on paper, but as a way of life. They’re out there every day, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, clothing the naked and visiting the prisoner. You just don’t hear about it because they’re too busy living it out to make a fuss.