A couple of months ago I had the chance to start an ongoing email conversation with a friend about Jesus. This person had basically no religious experience at all and wanted to get to know what the Bible was all about. It’s been pretty amazing.
As a minister, I spend most of my time around church people. I forget how much religious baggage we bring to basically any interaction with scripture. Our readings are colored by years of history and countless reviews of the same passages. But not so with my friend. It’s so refreshing to walk along with someone who truly reads the Bible with new eyes.
And he has lots of questions. Questions about what this story means. Questions about how to pray or how to interact with coworkers or how to treat his spouse in light of this story. What’s funny is that he thinks these inquiries will be annoying because they’re so “basic” or “simple”. But I tell him that these are the good questions. The ones that matter. The ones we should all be asking.
I don’t watch the news anymore. Ok, I never really watched the news, but “the news” has definitely changed a lot over the years. When I was growing up, “the news” was something you got from a paper on your doorstep or from a program that aired a couple times a night. It was information and stories that would inform you how to navigate your world the next day.
But “the news” looks a lot different these days. Now we have a 24-hour news cycle that is dominated by around-the-clock cable channels and websites that never sleep. There is more demand to satiate, more airtime to fill and more website space to arrange. “The news” is not just a product, it is an industry.
The purveyors have so much demand to fill that they (over)analyze and discuss the same information tirelessly. The goal is not just to inform, but to sell more news. They tease and inflame so that we only consume more. “The news” has become a means to its own end.
These 2 things converge for me when we talk about the gospel. Trevor did a great job earlier this week explaining how evangelism has become tainted in his mind. Not because any of our efforts to evangelize are necessarily bad. But he asked a great question: What are we hoping to accomplish here?
Too many times our Christian culture makes the gospel feel like the news. It feels like something that started in a great place, but has now become something we package — we plaster it on t-shirts and rings and frames and books — in order to create and sell more “Christian” products or maintain our large institutions. It can feel like the gospel exists simply to perpetuate itself. Like a means to its own end.
But what my friend is seeing as he reads the Bible with his fresh eyes is what the gospel really is — good news. It’s a story that is more than just a good tale. It’s good news because it goes beyond that. It’s something that affects every part of your life and changes the way you interact with the world.
The story of Jesus is more than a slogan or feel-good music. It is something that compels me to live a better life. Something that makes me want to be a better husband and father. Something that urges me to share my possessions and build deep relationships.
The gospel is so much bigger and better and deeper and wider than what we so often sell it to be.
The gospel — this strange story of the man Jesus — is indeed good news.