The word “gospel” is a derivative – ultimately coming from the Greek word euangelion – which means, “good news.” In this, the first addition of a dual-perspective blog written by two people trying to find where we stand on matters of the Christian faith, Ms. Richardson and I respond to the question, “What is the ‘Gospel’?” As this is the first part in the series, a coin toss has designated that this week Ms. Richardson has the first say on the matter.
In the Catholic faith the gospel is special because it tells about Jesus as a person and the message he had to tell us. According the gospel in the Bible, while Jesus was on Earth he spread the word of God, which was to let people know what it takes to reach salvation. It’s true that the Bible doesn’t have clear cut step-by-step directions on how to reach salvation; it’s open to interpretation. Even though this is true, you can still look into the reading and find the basis of how God wants us to live so that we can reach eternal life.
To most, being saved means finding Jesus and believing in God because the bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), but there is more to being saved then that. Being saved doesn’t just mean that you opened yourself up to Jesus, but it means that you are following his footsteps as well. To follow his footsteps one should be kind, selfless, honest, and stand up for what is right. When I look at what is considered a “good” Christian, they possess these values. But life is dynamic, and it’s a lot easier to say one should live by these values than it is to actually following through with it.
God gave us free will for a reason, and it’s to make mistakes and learn from them. My personal belief and what I have been taught is that anyone can make it to heaven by having a relationship with God, and as long as they learn from their mistakes and try to change their behavior, so they don’t make the same mistake again. Because God is forgiving, I feel like if one is truly sorry for the wrong they have done then it doesn’t excuse their behavior, but one gets another chance to prove themselves.
The point of following Jesus to be saved is so one can reach the final goal of eternal life. Eternal life is often defined as reaching heaven and living an everlasting life in the presence of God. Getting to heaven is the ultimate goal, but eternal life isn’t something that just starts when one dies. Eternal life can happen for a person right now in their life on Earth. The key to Eternal life on Earth is stated in the verse John 17:3 and it says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Knowing God doesn’t mean just knowing him intellectually, but knowing him on a personal and intimate level. Having this kind of relationship with God isn’t something you have to wait to have in heaven. Trying to get to heaven is more than being forgiven for our sins, but it’s having a strong relationship with God.
The gospel talks about salvation and eternal life, and it was done through the story of Jesus. God gave us the gift of his only son to lead the way and teach us how to live a Christian life. Without Jesus and the gospel, we would not know how to be saved or how to reach eternal life. We would not have the Christian faith without the gospel, because the gospel is the basis of Christianity.
When I was seven years old, I got my first Game Boy. I became bored with Tetris, Super Mario Bros., and Donkey Kong Land. As a Star Wars fan, I wanted more than anything the Star Wars game and was convinced that once I had it in my possession, I would need no other game. When I beat it the first afternoon I had it, that sense of desire for more which I thought I would no longer have to deal with was back before I knew it. The Church is guilty of turning the Gospel into a product and giving it false packaging. Ms. Richardson shared what the Gospel is. I am going to address what I see the Gospel is not.
1. The Gospel is not a complex series of steps to be followed.
Paul makes it clear in Ephesians what it take to be saved…nothing. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, he writes: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast” (2:8,9). Grace is something you cannot accept or reject, it just is.
Brennan Manning (who you should ready everything he has ever written on the topic) describes grace as vulgar. And it is. It’s vulgar because it is given without merit to all, from Mother Theresa to Hitler. The Gospel, a declaration of salvation for all of humanity, is something for all. It’s not about what prayer a person says, how many Bible verses he or she has read, how many times (if any) a person goes to church, or about how many swear words a person said. A person does not have to believe that the Bible is inerrant or that God is an “agent” in the daily affairs of the planet Earth.
The Gospel is that humanity is saved from itself through grace by faith in Christ crucified and Christ resurrected.
2. The Gospel is not about the hereafter, but the here(and)after.
Every altar call at every convention, special service, etc. always involves the same two-part sales pitch. Part B we will look at in #3, but Part A sounds something like this: “Friend, if you choose Jesus today, your place in heaven is assured. The Bible says ‘The angels rejoice over one soul that comes to the Kingdom.’.” I have many problems with the whole idea that committing one’s life to the idea of a liberating gospel message is simply fire insurance. If the “good news” were to be about that, then wouldn’t Jesus have made the centrality of his teachings about how to avoid hell after Earth instead of about bringing the Kingdom to Earth?
Sometimes I struggle to believe in the existence of hell. Before I get written off as a universalist, let me also state that I also struggle sometimes with believing in the idea of heaven too. It’s because I can’t see them. Their existence as real places is not something which can be proven beyond a doubt; what can be proven is “Greater love has no one than this, that he lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:3). “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).
To be saved does not require the belief in a Heaven OR Hell. It takes believing that a man named Jesus through his life and death, provided a way for us to experience life and life more abundantly (John 10:10), and life happens NOW while we are living.
3. The Gospel is not about the satisfaction of our desires (thank you, Peter Rollins).
The word “peace” appears in the NIV translation of the Bible a total 250 times. If you look up any verse that discusses God’s peace, there is a harmony to any of them. God says peace will be present in the midst of troubles, not that he will take them away and make life better. The gospel says nothing about desire being fulfilled because in Jesus, desires are not fulfilled. Jesus is not some “uber-fulfillment” that meets all desires, but as the very site of desire, abolishes desire so that it becomes impotent.
The gospel is not about Jesus taking our desires (sinful or not) away, but that they are robbed of all their power, which liberates us to live a life of Love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born in God and knows God. …. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:7-12). For at the site of Love is the site of God.
Of course, if this were the end of the discussion, then this topic would be closed forever. This just a beginning. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment or share this blog link on Twitter. Until next time.