Friday, November 28, 2014

What The Gospel "Is" and "Is Not"

What do you think about when you hear the term "Gospel"? Surely you think of The Good News, that's a pretty classic one. That probably brings to mind the idea of proclaiming The Good News to other people. It's a central theme to our faith, as it was the last thing that Jesus said to do before He ascended "Go and proclaim the Gospel to all nations" 

But, sometimes I think we get confused as to what "proclaiming the Gospel to all nations" means. We read verses like "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ" and we know that's important, but what that looks like and means gets pretty screwed up sometimes. So, here's a list of things that proclaiming and being unashamed of the Gospel is Not. To put it another way, here are the most common things that people use to punch their "Gospel" card for the week.

1. Bible Banging (A.K.A. Telling People They Are Going To Hell)

The first and most agreed upon point. Only a select few of us actually think that picketing funerals and holding up signs that tell others they are going to hell is a good technique. But, I know that some of us still play the punishment card before the rewards card. This isn't about escaping hell, it's about having a relationship with the Most High God who loves each and every person He made to insane amounts. Grunting with a KJV and a clinched fist does nothing to promote the good news. 

2. Voting Republican (Or Democrat)

Voting for members of the republican party has grown to be synonymous with being Christian in the United States. Somehow, Jesus came to love capitalism, 2nd amendment rights, and freedom to worship. Sorry, but Jesus doesn't care about any of those things (shoot me a message or phone call if you want to unpack that statement or get an explanation). On the other hand, Jesus doesn't endorse any number of things in the democrat party either. Some Christians have really just reversed this and made Jesus a liberal in their minds. Jesus was not a liberal or a conservative, He was a radical who's kingdom was "not of this world" and operated by a completely different set of standards that are simply inconsistent with the social institutions of the world. After all, do you actually want a president who's foreign policy is enemy love? That's what we, the church, should be about, but the thought of governments acting like this is ridiculous. Voting does not bring the gospel to people. 

3. Sharing Political Articles About Religion

I've seen it time and time before, political articles about religion. "The thing so-and-so said about God that has the liberals FUMING" or "The things about Jesus that the conservatives don't want you to know" or any number of articles. Have you ever stopped to consider that if a political website is sharing an opinion on religion, that opinion may be informed by a worldly perspective versus the other way around (I'm looking at you, Matt Walsh Blog readers)? As I said before, the church has it's own politic. For some reason, churches tend to reflect the culture instead of living counter to it. Churches were every bit as segregated before the Civil Rights Movement as the rest of the world (and unfortunately still are for the most part). Anybody remember The Crusades, Inquisition, or any number of corrupt Popes? Government tends to have a way worse effect on the church than the church has on the government whenever they are close. Sharing these articles is not sharing gospel.

4. Watching, Wearing, and Loving all things Duck Dynasty 

Quite frankly, these people have something to do with why I don't have a huge beard anymore. Also quite frankly, this is kind of the same as the last two points. I am very sorry, but wearing a Duck Dynasty t-shirt, shooting fowl out of the sky, and drinking sweet tea do not fulfill The Great Commission. Disciples will be known for their love, not for their support of Phil Robertson. Somehow, we have made gospel out of the idea that we need to stand up and support the Robertson clan and what they stand for. I'm not saying you can't like the show (I personally don't get it, but it's whatevs), I'm just saying that Duck Dynasty is the current face of Christianity, and there's honestly alot wrong with that picture (although I fully admit, most days I also struggle to wear the face of Christianity in a truly Christlike way). 

5. Eating Chic-Fil-A Sandwiches

This relates back to the last point, which relates back to the last few points (there's a theme!). Remember back when Chic-Fil-A took their stand in support of traditional marriage? There are many things I could say about that situation, but I'll leave it at the fact that some people got hacked off and spoke out against Chic-Fil-A's stance. I remember it vividly because I was at a church camp when Mike Huckabee or some other political figure (who'da thunk it?) announced a "Support Chic-Fil-A" day and thousands upon thousands of Christians flocked to their doors in the name of a Christian cause. Although many would deny it, there was the sense that people were checking off their "Spread The Good News" box for the week by eating 12-count chicken nuggets. If eating chicken could get me in to heaven...well I'll just say that it doesn't and move on. 

What The Gospel Is

It really does translate to "Good News." One of the things you may not know about the word is that it actually does not directly relate to Jesus dying for the sins of humanity, God loving people, or the hope of the resurrection. It can have something to do with those things, but only as those things relate to the concept of Kingdom. Whenever you read about gospel in the New Testament, there is almost always a message of kingdom nearby. Think about it, Jesus was proclaiming the gospel before He died (check the end of Matthew 5). The gospel message is that God's kingdom is being continuously established, Christ is its King, and things change when you fall under the rule of the Lord Jesus. Perhaps you can see now why I focus so much on the political side of what gospel is not. The answer to what gospel truly is relates greatly to politics, but a very unique politic. This politic is so unique that it cannot be brought about by earthly kingdoms. It can only be brought about through the church. Government cannot further this kingdom, it usually only manages to get in the way.

At the end of the day, I have just as hard of a time bringing this message to people as the next guy. It is hard to speak this message into people's lives. You know what is easy for me though? Putting up tweets, facebook statuses, and even blog posts about it. However, I feel as though there is a relational aspect of Gospel that all of the areas above, as well as myself, fail miserably to promote. We cannot share the gospel with others if we do not work to have a relationship with them. Why else would they want to listen to us? 

So, I ask you to join me and stop believing the utter bullcrap of a lie that any of these non-relational, political, or cultural "stands" is truly being "not ashamed of The Gospel of Christ"

Let us love others and show them both with our lives and with our words that the Kingdom of God is here, and it changes lives. 

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