Why in the world would the world think the gospel is good news? At least, the gospel as is often presented today – as your ticket to heaven when you die. Great, says the world, but what about the years I spend on earth before I die? What about my pain, loneliness, and isolation that I am feeling right now? Nice that you talk about forgiving my sins so I can get into heaven, but I’d like some good news that makes a difference to me today.
Many of us misunderstand the focal point of Jesus’ message. It is not, primarily, about “getting into heaven one day,” although that is important (except for the fact that we’re not going to heaven; heaven is coming here – a subject for another post…). Nor is it primarily about the forgiveness of sins, although that is important too.
The Gospel is about community.
If we still want to stay with the “one day in the future” motif, the final destiny of creation is communal: a redeemed people, living in a renewed world, eternally enjoying the presence of the redeeming God. In other words, the final movement of God’s amazing symphony of life together is perfect relationship between humanity and God, perfect relationship with each other, and perfect relationship between humanity and the rest of Creation. That is the goal of history, and it is unstoppable, for it is God’s plan (see Ephesians 1:10).
But what about now?
The good news now (in other words, the gospel) is that God’s heart desire has always been for our perfect, eternal, loving community with him, each other, and all creation. It has been his desire since the beginning of time. We messed it up, and God has provided a way for us to regain what we lost.
The forgiveness of sins is simply the door through which we enter into the communal relationship God has always desired (and we also have desired without realizing it). Forgiveness is not the goal (perfect community with God, each other, and creation is the goal). Forgiveness is the door.
The proclaiming of the gospel must center on the desire for perfect, complete community. This is what excites people. That then leads to the discussion of the problem of sin (breaks community), the death of Christ (forgiveness of those sins and restoration of community), the resurrection of Christ (power of God to defeat every enemy of community, including death), and the coming of the Holy Spirit (we are one in him, and he changes us to build and enjoy this community).
When Christ returns, he will establish this community permanently as it was meant to be. Until then, it advances with the kingdom of God, as the world becomes a bit more like God designed it to be.
So when I talk about pain and isolation, the gospel has good news for me right now. God has delivered through his Son an invitation to me: join me now in the Perfect Community that I am, and allow me to work in you through my Spirit as I work in the rest of those who are in my Son, so that you can give and receive everything you need to live out this community now, on earth.
Now that is good news.
What do you think?