Monday, April 22, 2013

The Merely Annoying Gospel

We’re killing the gospel to get people to listen.

What do I mean?

Well, remember how following Christ is supposed to be offensive, divisive, renewing (as in overwriting the old, not just refreshing it), death-to-self inducing and all that other “hard stuff.”

The gospel is designed by God to offend every sense of human strength. It flies in the face of every thought that we can “make it on our own” or “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” or “DIY.” It stands in front of those notions and screams a very loud, “No! I’m sorry, but no. It just ain’t happening.”

Then it says, “But I’ll do it for you. All you have to do is follow.”

And every bone within us free-willed humans shouts, “No thanks, if I can’t do it myself, then I don’t want to do it. I don’t mind the gift, but the terms are too high. You can’t get me to admit that without you, I’m nothing.”

And like the rich young ruler, we often turn away.

But that’s the gospel. Or at least that’s the gospel God designed. The one we’re preaching nowadays has lost all that power. The sharp, dividing edge has been dulled. The offensiveness has been downgraded to mere annoyance.

The gospel is not  practical guidelines for a happy life.
The gospel is not a self-help book.
The gospel is not something you can take part of and ignore the rest.
The gospel is not something you can face without either admitting or ignoring the truth about your own spiritual state.
The gospel is not something that gives you the ability to feel “meh” about—it either offends you deeply and drives you away or it draws you to it deeply and offers you hope for change based on someone else’s ability.

Our modern gospel has been converted from something life-changing to something value-added.

Ironically, in doing so, in our efforts to make the “gospel” more appealing and less offensive to the average “unchurched Harry and Mary,” it is we ourselves, the Christian people who have become offensive. It is our “self-improved,” value-added, holier-than-thou-ness that offends our unbelieving friends and neighbors. We’ve stopped telling people that we’re just like them -- “such a worm as I” -- and we all need the offensive gospel that cuts us off at the kneecaps spiritually, and we’ve somehow started conveying the message that we’ve improved and that they can become more like us if they follow the same practical rules and spiritual guidelines.

We’ve taken the idea of an offensive gospel delivered by the “beautiful feet” of a loving and merciful and forgiving and thoroughly inoffensive people and turned it into an inoffensive (and thoroughly ineffective) gospel delivered by an offensive people. Seems to me we’re missing the point somewhere in all that.

I don’t mind people being offended by what I believe.

I do mind them being offended by me.

And I could be wrong, but isn’t that kind of the point of being salt and light in the world? I mean, isn't salt supposed to taste good?

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