Friday, February 17, 2006

full gospel?

What exactly is the gospel? I think that if you asked most Christians why Jesus came, they would answer “to die”. For them, the gospel seems to be summed up in Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s a good gospel to adopt because it comes with very little responsibility on our parts, except to tell others of their need to get on board. It’s no wonder that those who have the most need see this gospel as one which offers no help in their current crises.

When Jesus was asked, “hey, out of the more than 600 laws, which one is most important?” Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself. ALL OF THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS HINGE ON THESE TWO THINGS.”

I think I’ve always missed that last bit. But, it turns out, Jesus was right! I went back and read the laws and the prophets and, sure enough, God was always mad at his people for one of two things; either turning their backs on God, or acting unjustly towards the poor and/or alienated. In fact, take a look at Micah 6:7-8. My wife loves to quote me this verse just before I’m about to go out and speak to a large audience. When she can see that I’m really nervous. In fact, she’s gotten to the point now where she doesn’t even quote it, she just asks “what does God require of you?”. In Micah, God speaking through the prophet asks if God will be pleased with ten thousand rams, or ten thousand rivers of oil, or your firstborn? Then he goes on to say that he has shown you what he wants! And what is it that he wants? What is it that he requires of you? To act justly. To love mercy. And to walk humbly with your God. This is what God requires of us?!!! Two out of three of the things that God requires of us have to do with how we treat our fellow man! What an amazing gospel!

I think that our modern day gospel has fallen well short of the original message. And it has certainly fallen short of meeting people’s needs, especially in the here and now. And, it has taken the responsibility of acting justly and loving mercy, of loving (and therefore taking care of) our neighbour as we do ourselves, out of our hands.

I think the gospel is more than just Christ’s death and resurrection. I think it’s the 33 years before it and all that He taught. I think the gospel was meant to affect the here and now. And I’m not talking about the “joy of the Lord”, or the “friend we’ve found in Jesus”. I’m talking about the part of the gospel where Jesus taught us how to live, and how to treat each other, and how to look after the poor and needy. I’m talking about the part where Jesus gave us specific examples of how to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. And the amazing thing is, even his examples of humility always revolved around serving mankind (feet washing and death, for examples).

Matthew 25:31-46 may be the most telling example of the full gospel message. In the story, God tells some to depart from him and go to the place prepared for the devil and his angels. And why? Because people were hungry, and they did not feed them. Thirsty and they gave them nothing to drink. Naked and they did not clothe them. Sick and in prison and they did not look after them. The end. There’s nothing more. That’s quite literally the end of the chapter.

Have we embraced the entire gospel? Are we preaching the whole thing? Have we embraced a gospel that is without responsibility on our part? Is this the message we’re hearing in our churches? Are we being taught to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God? Could it be that the gospel was meant to solve more than just problems on eternity, but also the problems of the here and now?

Comments on "full gospel?"

 

Blogger Dave C said ... (3:57 AM) : 

Tim,

Thanks for you insight. Sometimes we all need to be reminded.

In His Grip,
Dave

salarmyofficership.blogspot.com

 

Blogger peter said ... (6:42 AM) : 

People tend to preach the parts they like. There are a ton who, as you say, forget about the teaching of Jesus and his 33 years on this earth.
There are those that take it to the other extreme, seeing Jesus as nothing but a teacher and lover of the poor. Jesus was both the messiah and a great teacher. Balance must be achieved.
For some that means going out and getting your hands dirty for once in your; life helping someone else. For someone else this might be a matter of pulling back the focus from physical poverty and directing that attention to spiritual poverty. Balance is beautiful.
Thanks for the insight as always.

 

Blogger Martin said ... (5:14 PM) : 

Hey Tim!

Just thought I'd drop in and say hey...we have met, several times...but I think you've told me each time your memory sucks...I don't take it personally!

Great blog mate...should catch up some time.
M

 

Blogger Larry said ... (8:12 PM) : 

I love what Peter says about balance. Do I here a Salvation Army theme?

I would hasten to add though that our work with physical poverty must not be an inconvenient part of our living or duty. The privilege of touching the poor must be our offering to God.

 

Blogger Bret said ... (5:12 AM) : 

Great blog! You’ve made me think.

I agree that the Gospel is for the here and now. Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” That can be ours – now.

When it comes to serving the poor, how do we define “poor?” Do we compare our culture with other “third-world” cultures? How do we constitute a need (with all the scamming going on)? I say this because, I think, we focus and work way too much in the physical realm. Every day we hand out food, pay rent and utilities, and cover prescription costs for those who have “need.” At what point should we say, “If you do not work you shall not eat?” Are we really serving the poor? Those who are “poor in spirit” may not be physically poor and vise versa.

Blessings,

Bret

 

Blogger Evangeline said ... (3:19 AM) : 

Bret - the only answer I can give to "At what point should we say, “If you do not work you shall not eat?”" is... when we have been at that point, and know that laziness, not a myriad of other things, is the problem. Or maybe it's even simpler... when we're in touch with God and HE tells us to say that.

 

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