I’ve been thinking about this question for the last 24 hours or so. I was chatting with a few students from Montana Bible College last night after basketball and asking them what classes they are currently taking. One student said he was enjoying his evangelism class because, even though he grew up as a pastor’s kid, he wasn’t sure he could have articulated the ‘gospel’ until taking this course.
And it really is a good question, because our answer to that question—what is the gospel?—will drastically impact how we think about God, the world, and our calling as followers of Jesus.
If the gospel is primarily that we are royal screwups who had distanced ourselves from God through our sin and Jesus had to come cover for our mistakes, then God’s going to seem angry, Jesus’ death is going to seem transactional, and our role as Christians is going to be about keeping people out of hell.
If the gospel is primarily about Jesus being a nice person who helped a bunch of people, taught some great messages, and showed us how to live, then God’s going to seem powerless, Jesus’ death and resurrection are going to seem metaphorical, and our role as Christians will be about morality.
If the gospel gets reduced to only talking about what happened on the cross and what will happen when we die, then we lose the historical and cosmic rootedness of our faith and can slip into thinking faith is only about me and my relationship with Jesus.
There are many more examples than this, but the point is that what we believe matters. It plays out in how we live and move and have our being in this world. It affects the way we worship, grow as followers of Jesus, and treat the people around us.
So, I’ve been pondering how I would respond to this question: what is the gospel? What’s the good news that encapsulates who God is, what Jesus did, and how we should respond?
For me, the gospel must tell the whole story of God’s work in the world, must not leave out the problem we’ve caused, must emphasize the love of God that led Jesus to the cross, and must capture the proper response to God’s gift of grace. So, here are a few lines I’ve been mulling over, which I anticipate continuing to work on in the years to come.
The gospel is the good news that, while we have made a mess of God’s perfect plan for creation, God loves us so much that He would come to earth to live, die, and rise again to make things right with the whole world and offer us an abundant life of holistic peace in Christ. Our response to this gracious gift is to partner with God in redeeming the world through loving God, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and helping others start walking in the way of Jesus.
How about you? How would you answer this question, “What is the gospel?”