Friday, October 27, 2006

The Whole Gospel

This entry is part of a response I wrote at work to someone who wrote the following:

"I am glad you see yourself as working for the good of humanity. It does not do them much good, however, to fill their bellies but then be unable to give them a satisfactory answer to this most basic of questions and, of course, satisfactory answers to all of the many questions that any thoughtful person is going to have about life."

I have one last comment to your response, and it concerns the nature of the Gospel itself. As you likely know, the Greek word for Gospel is best translated as “good news.” As Christians, the core of that good message is Christ’s salvific act for us on the cross. However, I think a sound theological reading of the Bible reveals that the Gospel is so much more than simply admission to heaven when we die. That “good news” is not just for life in the world to come, but it is also for this life. It is the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth, a dominant theme in the Gospels. Two passages I love so much are Luke 4, when Jesus introduces his earthly ministry by reading from Isaiah, and the Beatitudes. Both speak of good news and blessings, but it is good news for the poor, good news for the captives, and good news for the oppressed. I think the 2,000 scriptural references to the poor and oppressed indicate to us that God is not simply concerned with the eternal destination of our souls, but He is also desperately concerned with the poor and forgotten of this life as well. You ask what good is food for those who are perishing, but I ask what good is a message of heavenly salvation for those who are starving on this earth? (It is easy for us, the well-fed and comfortable, to answer this too quickly; I wonder if we would feel differently if we were hungry and it was our children who were dying). They are not mutually exclusive – we are called to BOTH ministries, and Jesus himself spent much of his earthly ministry giving veiled and cryptic references to spiritual truths (making it “hard” to enter the Kingdom) while freely healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and playing with children. I think we do a practical and theological disservice when we divorce or separate the inextricably linked dual nature of the Kingdom, the corporal AND spiritual. The Incarnation itself is a testimony to God’s redemption of the physical, and the rejection of the corporal is one reason why the Gnostics were considered heretical in the early church. Additionally, the entire book of James is a good reminder that we must meet people’s needs in this life as well as the next or our faith is worthless and may not be faith at all. He also tells us that pure and undefiled religion is one which cares for orphans and widows. Thus, I encourage you to consider that the “Good News” – the biblical Good News – is a two-sided coin of this life and the next. That is again why we at Sojourners do what we do; as our mission says, we believe there is an overwhelming biblical mandate to social justice and peace, and we are happy to come together from across the Christian spectrum to join hands in our united efforts to see that God’s Kingdom – one of love, justice, and peace – comes on earth as it is in heaven and that we ALL have this day our daily bread.


Anonymous Amy said...

I am now officially "inspired"!! lol
No, really...great writing and awesome thoughts. I love the passion!

6:30 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home