the damning reality of the gospel


There are few things that Christians as a whole can agree on. We like to fight and argue, which is odd when we think about how we argue, but perhaps an idea for another day.

Put 20 Christians in a room and you’d be hard pressed to find many topics they all agree on.

One that I think everyone would agree on however is that the message of Jesus, the gospel, is good news.

I do however wonder if this good news is really good news for everyone.

In the end I suppose it is. That love and grace are free for everyone, that’s good news. And I argue daily that living like Jesus will bring a depth and density to life that cannot be found elsewhere. That if nothing else, living his way presents self-evident truths about who we are at our core. Who people were made to be.

The problem is that if your anything like me, the gospel is at times not actually all that good. It’s challenging and harsh and at times kind of terrifying.

The good news of Jesus shows a different way of living. Not some small tweaks we make to our life but a different way of seeing all life. Peter Rollins talks about it like this; It’s not that we have 10 things then find God and have 11. It’s that we have 10 things, find God and relate to the 10 things we have in an entirely different way.

It doesn’t change WHAT we have as much as it changes HOW we have.

I love this idea. I love this way of looking at it. God changes everything.

But I’d argue that Peter misses something that I think is a result of God changing how we relate to the 10 things we have. We see that in the 10 things we have far too many are things we shouldn’t have. That as we relate to the 10 things we have we see that we are holding things that frankly we shouldn’t want any more. Things we shouldn’t have ever wanted.

This is where I think the good news of the gospel becomes a little trickier. Because while many people have 10 things, for those of us in the camp of the majority, the powerful, the privileged, we have 100s to the 10 the rest have.

And we hold those 100 awfully tight. We’ll lie to ourselves about possessing them, the importance of them or the fact that we can’t really change them anyway. They just are, nothing can be done.

If the news you hear when we listen to someone talk about Jesus is good news for the established and powerful, it’s probably not actually Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that Jesus isn’t actually good news for all, but he calls us away from the world. Away from the power and privilege of this world. He calls us to leave it.

Too often, we’d rather Jesus affirm our power than ask us to give it up.

The good news of the gospel is not that you get to keep you power, but rather that you don’t need it.

That we are at our best when we love those we’d rather not love.

Which is why to those of us with all the power, I wonder how ‘good’ the good news is. When we realize not only are we broken but for far too long we’ve been deeply invested in breaking others. That we are the oppressor not the liberator. The call of Christ can stop sounding so good.

But, when we stop defending our oppression and give our voice and power to those we hate. Stake our credibility, our image, our place in society with the weak and forgotten. This is the subversive call of Christ. Not to fight for more power, more privilege, more of a voice in our culture or to maintain any of those as we go forward. No, we are called to fight to give it all away. When we are to give up everything and follow Christ, its so much more than just our money and possessions.

We love the oppressed and the broken not just by giving our money, but by giving them our power and privilege so they have a say in their own reconciliation. Something we routinely take away. Something we frame for those we oppress, telling them how to experience their own pain and how it should be expressed. Telling them when they should and should not speak, what matters and what doesn’t. What stories hold value.

Our living out the good news is listening to their pain and being a part of ensuring that their history is heard, from them. So they have what we have stolen, generation after generation. Our living out the gospel is confessing our complicit involvement in the horrors we hide and deny.

The good news of the gospel is not just that we are saved. But that we are asked to be part of the restoration of all things back to God. And we do that by giving our whole self, not just the easy part.

Is the gospel good news? Of course it is.

But for those of us who love our power and hold to our privilege its damning.

It’s better the deeper we lean into Christ, but the prospect in so many ways is terrifying. It makes us vulnerable and powerless.

It puts us in a place we’ve put far too many others. One that requires we trust God more than coerce and control him. One that leaves us reliant.

This is the good news of the gospel. That the power was never ours to hold in the first place, we’ve been corrupted by it and Jesus has come to set us free.

Free from our power and privilege.

Photo credit: Gabriel King via Flickr CC




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