Some Christians speak and write of the Gospel as a purely private matter of deliverance from personal sins and an empowerment to live in holiness. Heck, some just focus on the deliverance from sin and leave things there.
I hear over and over again that we need to be “Gospel-focused” or “Gospel-centered.” It’s often stated as a kind of critique of those dedicated to addressing the seemingly peripheral issues of Christianity.
- Don’t address the problems with patriarchy… just focus on the Gospel.
- Don’t talk about political corruption… just focus on the Gospel.
- Don’t speak of economic inequity… just focus on the Gospel.
- Don’t call out abuses of power in the church… just focus on the Gospel.
Defining the Gospel has been a sort of ongoing street fight among evangelicals of late. I don’t expect that I can resolve all that much with this blog post, but I want to explore one aspect of the life of Jesus as it relates to defining the Gospel and at least leave everyone with something to chew on.
How Jesus Announced the Arrival of God’s Kingdom
The politically charged message “Jesus is Lord” and even the phrase “Gospel” were appropriated from the Roman Empire. The “gospel” was an announcement from the Roman Emperor, who was known as “the lord.” Jesus took hold of these common phrases used by the powerful and offered a remixing of that word according to his own message.
While Jesus certainly depoliticized these words from their Roman usage, he didn’t necessarily move completely away from the public and political realm. Jesus didn’t launch a political party, but he also wasn’t unconcerned with the issues of his day. He just addressed them through the message of God’s Kingdom coming.
When we speak of God’s Kingdom coming, we’re not just talking about the cross, although it was an essential part of it. The message throughout the New Testament of God’s Kingdom and Jesus as Lord was spoken directly counter to that of the Romans even though the Kingdom of Jesus was different from Rome in just about every way.
The Gospel addressed the powers of our world, but it didn’t address these powers on their own terms.
What This Means for the Gospel
To say that we want to “only” focus on the Gospel and then speak of personal salvation and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ only captures part of the picture. The Gospel literally proclaims freedom to captives, but it’s not a politically organized freedom. There is both a spiritual element to this and a physical reality of freedom.
We can both pass along spiritual and physical freedom to each other, living as if the Kingdom of God is truly present and among us—because it is. We can give generously to one another because God’s Kingdom has come. We can pray for emotional or physical healing because God’s Kingdom has come. We can treat the least as the first because God’s Kingdom has come.
Our opportunities for living in the Kingdom of God and embodying the Gospel’s message, Jesus is Lord, are all around us:
When a single mother encourages an overwhelmed new mother, the Kingdom comes.
When a family delivers a meal to those who can’t provide for themselves, the Kingdom comes.
When a child offers a pile of her clothes to those in need, the Kingdom comes.
When the most fearful and insecure Christian prays with confidence for a friend in a dark place, the Kingdom comes.
The Gospel isn’t about standing around the cross for the rest of our lives.
The Gospel sends us running down a dirt road in the early morning hours to find an empty tomb.
The Gospel fills our rooms with fire and wind, giving us words we would never find on our own.
The Gospel gives us confidence to lay hands on a friend and to pray as if God can actually do something.
The Gospel steadies our minds in a chaotic world because Christ has overcome the world.
The Gospel breaks our hearts for those suffering from the consequences of their pasts.
The Gospel is incarnation, God among us, God broken for us, God risen for us, and God forever in us.
The Gospel is too big to keep it inside of ourselves or to be confined to a dark Friday morning outside of Jerusalem. The Gospel of our Lord started with the arrival of God among us, and it continues every time we live in the freedom and peace that our Lord’s presence brings.
The Gospel is freedom, hope, peace, healing, and salvation. It has everything to do with confronting the powers of our world, whether that’s an abusive church, an abusive government, or an abusive relationship.
Every time we live as if the power of evil has been defeated, every time we mend the broken, every time we tell the powerful they can’t bully the weak, and every time we tell the fearful and lost about our wounded healer, we proclaim the Gospel of Christ’s Lordship over every power in this world.
Note to Readers: Today’s post is the second of a 3-part series covering 3 things that are impossible for evangelicals.