Monday, November 21, 2011

Occupy the Gospel

[The title of this post comes from a radio interview of Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, religion editor for the Huffington Post.  I love the sentiment. See post below for the interview.]

"Gospel" is the word that Christians have used to refer shorthand to the good news about God's saving work in our world. In many ways it is a symbol.  For instance when I say the words "Old Glory," the thought of the flag evokes the whole story of American independence and freedom. Likewise when Christians say "The Gospel" they should be referring to the whole story of God intervening in our world to fix what is ultimately broken with it. At least that's how it is used in the Bible. Christians believe that the ultimate problem is sin, or rebellion against God's loving rule over his good creation.

However, in Christian circles the Gospel has come to mean, "the good news that Jesus has died for your sins so that you can go to heaven when you die."  The Gospel is at least this, but it is much more.  For instance the Bible says that the gospel is something that the angels never tire of looking into. It is infinitely complex in its depth.

Because of this truncation of the gospel we have been tempted to believe that the gospel is something you get right in the beginning. You pray a prayer. Then you get on with the hard work of discipleship, becoming more and more like Jesus. When Christians believe this they become arrogant and prideful.  They got it right. Why haven't you got it right? It must be because on some level they believe that they are more humble or smarter or more spiritual than you are.  After all, they've got it right and you haven't.

But the Gospel isn't something that you "get right" and then get on with becoming godly.  The gospel is an entire story of God's loving rule over creation and his activity to restore it to his original intent. The gospel is a story that is meant to be occupied. Lived in. Soaked in. And it is that crazy counter-cultural news that you can't earn salvation or even godliness that ultimately transforms you into a godly person.  The gospel is meant to be occupied. You have to pray and meditate and let the truth of it sink down into the core of your being. Then it will change the aim of your heart. Then it will change the way you think. Then it will change the way you act.

And instead of feeling superior to others you feel humbled because none of it was really your doing in the first place. It was all based on the achievement of Jesus Christ upon the cross. Jesus occupied our place of sin so that we could occupy the story of the gospel and live out its truth in every area of our lives.

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