There is this big, massive, life-altering word at the very heart of the Bible. It is a word on the lips of every Christian and a word included in virtually every sermon preached in every church, at every service, every Sunday.
Yet, it is very likely the most misunderstood word in all of Christianity.
That word is… gospel.
Gospel is an Olde English word that means good news, which should invariably lead one to ask, “The good news of what?”
If you ask most Christians, the answer you will get is, “The good news is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to take away our sins so that we can go to heaven one day.”
But the fundamental problem is that Jesus actually preached the good news.
Do you see the problem here?
Jesus had not yet died, so his good news could not have been his own death, burial, and resurrection.
A closer look reveals that the good news Jesus preached was the good news of the kingdom of God. And this good news was not about going to heaven one day in the future. It was the good news of heaven coming to earth presently through our lives, in how we live. It was a good news radically rooted in this present moment. And it was a good news that operated by a new set of values, a new way of thinking, a new way of being human.
And it looks exactly like Jesus.
When the world hits you, do not retaliate but give the other cheek. When the world is weighing you down with heavy requests, don’t just go one mile with the request but go two miles. When the world takes everything you have, even the coat off of your back, don’t just give your coat but go even further by offering your shirt. When the way of the world harbors anger and holds grudges, be one who forgives your friends and your enemies alike. Don’t just forgive once, but forgive and forgive and forgive.
When the world is quick to respond and rip a person to shreds, be one who controls your anger and the words that come from your mouth. When the world devalues relationships and marriages, be one who looks to the interest of others, honors commitments, and always remains selfless. When the world looks out for and protects its own pursuits and interests to the detriment of others, be one who treats others as you would want to be treated yourself. When the world casts the stone of judgment at the “sinner,” be one who loves and stands beside every single person without judgment. When the world shuns the outcast and pushes him to the edges of society, be one who befriends the outcast and welcomes him back into loving and healing community.
When the world lords over you with power and authority, be one who serves with the utmost humility. When the world takes the seat of honor so it can be seen and noticed by everyone, be one who takes the seat of low-position in the back of the room. When the world puts on a show of being pure and good but is corrupt at the very core, be one who is pure from the inside and let it work out through your life. When the world continues in the ways of injustice and is merciless to the least in society, be one who aligns with the least and for those who cannot defend themselves by demanding justice and mercy.
When the world fights and wars among themselves, be one who always stands on the side of peace no matter the situation and no matter the circumstance. When the world insults, ridicules, and curses you, be one who blesses in return. When the evil of the world assaults you, be the one who does not resist the evil. And when the world beats you, spits upon you, and is preparing to crucify you, continue on the way of forgiveness and self-sacrificing love.
The kingdom of God will never be conquered, destroyed, or defeated because it is the love of God that continually resurrects in our lives. This kingdom is growing larger and spreading from person to person all throughout the world. And there is not a savage, a soldier, a maniac, a terrorist, or a world army that can pin it down or extinguish it because the love of God will prevail.
And this kingdom is here, now.
That is the good news.
That is the gospel.
I was asked recently by Zondervan to write a blog post to help encourage people to engage with the Bible in new ways. This is what I submitted for this project.