What is the gospel we want our children to know? Is it “good” only because we know it means they’ve got “fire insurance”? Or is there something more we want for our children…and our families?
I was recently listening to one of my favorite speakers, and he brought up a good point about the Gospel. The word “gospel”, literally means “good news”. When a Christian talks about the “Gospels”, they generally mean the books of the Bible that tell the story of the life of Jesus Christ (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). But when a Christian talks about the “good news” of Christianity, they’re usually referring to the types of things Paul tells us in Romans, Corinthians, and so on. The “good news” that Paul often talks about is that through Christ we are “justified” by faith, being offered salvation and eternal life in a renewed creation, saving us from the suffering of separation from God. That even when life brings suffering we can have Hope for what is yet to come. This is the good news, or the “gospel” of Paul. It is GREAT news, of course. But it cannot be the complete foundation of our faith.
He pointed out how even our creeds are missing something. In the “Apostles Creed”, for example, we see the words:
“..And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;….
The words go right from “born of the Virgin Mary”, to “suffered under Pontius Pilate”. The disciples, and those who followed Jesus from town to town seeing Him literally live out the good news…may challenge the fact that we skip right over all of those years in our statement of belief. This kind of approach to the “good news” of Jesus looks very much like the pamphlet I received last week while at the Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan.
We were standing outside the porta-potties, with an odd mixture of urinal wafers and cherry juice hanging in the thick humidity of July…when a man with long pants, long sleeves, and sweating painfully through a neck-tie smiled and handed me this flier:
I’m sure the man has a great heart. He’s obviously dedicated to his task. But the chocolate bunny he’s offering is hollow. Sure it’s still a chocolate bunny, but when you bite into it…you notice something is missing. This is the “gospel” so many young people are walking away from.
The good news we want for our children to grow up knowing and experiencing, is found in the very life and words of Jesus Christ. It’s found in the fact that God establishes Himself as King in Jesus. That God becomes ruler, and calls His followers to live in a way that proclaims and ushers in His Lordship “on earth, as it is in Heaven.” As NT Wright says, it’s not about “how to have your sins forgiven’ or ‘how to go to heaven’ but … an agenda in which the forgiven people are put to work, addressing the evils of the world in the light of the victory of Calvary.”
This is the story we want to shape our children, and our families around. Not simply that we’re “saved for Heaven someday”, but that we’re living out the Lordship of Jesus Christ even now. Declaring to any other power or system that attempts to establish itself as foundational or “Lord” of our lives – that no matter how things appear to be, or happen, Jesus is Lord. His ways are sacrificial love, healing grace, undeserved mercy, and responding to an invitation to come before God as His child. And that is very, very good news…