Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Gospel, by Heather Voelkel Schaber

I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
I Cor 9:23

Every valley shall be raised up and every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level and the rugged places plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed and ALL mankind together will see it.
Is 40:4-5

This last six months or so I hit a sort of crisis. I’ve been feeling very unsure of my role or place or belonging in the church, which lead me to feel very unsure of my role or place or belonging in The Church. It’s been months of bobbing along somewhat aimlessly, letting the tide take me to this church for one Sunday or that church for another Sunday or maybe on Sunday there was no church in sight so it would just be a Sunday of floating alone.

The last few weeks the word gospel has surfaced in quite a few settings. I’ve been loosely fingering the word in my brain, wondering what it actually means. What is the good news for me? What is the good news for people who know Christ? What is the good news for people who don’t know Christ? How do I experience or live out the good news? What does it mean to proclaim good news?

Fast fact: the word “gospel,” as so frequently used by Paul, is actually an incredibly common greek word that intonated political good news. For example, if the king had a baby, he would send out a gospel to the whole kingdom letting them know of the birth. Or if the king won a battle, he would send out a gospel to the people letting them know that the war was over.

So Jesus actually co-opted this word- people understood the gospel as a broad proclamation that impacted everyone in a positive way. Moreover, Jesus actually was NOT the first prophet to use this word. The prophet Isaiah was famous for his gospel in Isaiah 40, which is that the Jewish people were free to go home- God would clear every obstacle in their way for them. The mountains in their lives that needed bulldozing- He would remove them. The valleys of hopelessness and despair that seemed too deep to escape- He would raise them up.

The gospel as described by both Isaiah and Jesus, it seems, is that God will remove ALL obstacles to bring people close to himself. The gospel is a little bit that Jesus died, but I think even more, it’s that he LIVES. He lives in the now to bring healing, to bring reconciliation, to bring hope.

It’s interesting- forgiveness has nothing to do with the person who did wrong and has everything to do with the person who was wronged. The person who was wronged can forgive without the the receiver even knowing that they were forgiven. Forgiveness has everything to do with the heart of the forgiver and nothing, really, to do with the one who did injury.

Reconciliation, however, is a two-way deal. Both parties have to meet in the middle. The one who did injury has to repent- has to turn around and walk towards the party they hurt. The one who was injured has to turn and face the one who hurt them- has to reach out to the one that brought injury.

When Jesus died, he brought forgiveness. It has nothing, really, to do with us. We are forgiven because he DECIDED to forgive. Reconciliation, however, is two-ways. That’s why Jesus rose again and came BACK to earth after death. For us to actually experience reconciliation and healing, we have to turn and meet Jesus in the middle. We turn and reach out to Him, and He turns and reaches out to us. In that place of us reaching and of Jesus reaching, that’s where LIFE happens. That’s where we experience purpose and fulfillment. That’s where our cups overflow with blessing.

I think that’s good news for me. It’s good news that my being forgiven has nothing to do with me. I’m forgiven even when I reject Christ in my life. It’s done. It was His decision to forgive me and what or who I am isn’t even in the cards. It’s good news, too, that He wants more for me than just forgiveness. He is willing to do ANYTHING to meet me where I’m at. He’ll even demolish mountains so that the path to meeting Him is clear- so that the path to healing and reconciliation and hope, is clear.