Many will argue the core of the gospel is found in Jesus claiming that we can only attain salvation through faith in him. After all, Jesus did say that he is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that “no one comes to the father but by [him]”. Perhaps this is his message, but I think that’s divisive, and apart from incorporating fear in it, nonstrategic. When Jesus said “no one comes to the father but by me, ” couldn’t he have been saying that by his example we realize the perfection of God? I know that he “paid the price for my sin” – but that knowledge doesn’t necessarily change me. Perhaps, God did need a blood sacrifice to fulfill his covenant and create a new one. But where does that leave the world?
There is, I think, a much more practical side to this “gospel”.
Jesus always pointed back to God. Even in his best moments, he realized that God was even better. Could that be his message? We are to, in some way, learn to become last…or at least second always. “Whoever desires to be great among you shall be your servant.” “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s sake will save it.”
Isn’t this the power of Jesus’ life? If an individual is humbled, he/she is able to love his/her neighbor, and hate, envy, and pride become easier to tame. But how are we humbled? Do we just decide one day that we should place everyone above us? I don’t think that is possible, and at best, it will be insincere. I think it has to come from realizing/believing that there exists a God who, by definition, is greater, more perfect, more powerful, more everything than me. I think we see that in Jesus’ life, a life lived among the turmoil of a divided world not blaming God but looking to him/her/it as his hope.
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus.” – Hebrews 6:19-20
I am me, full of flaws. I judge, I lie, I hide myself from others, I’m often materialistic, I hurt others, I’m insecure, and this list could continue for years. But if there exists anyone or anything that is none of these things, then it is that person/thing that I shall serve. We can try to define God by telling others what he/she/it is, but in this world it is much more important that we put our hope in what he/she/it isn’t. Let’s hope that God is not like any of us. And when we come to trust that that is a possibility, we are humbled. That vertical realization then manifests itself horizontally, changing the way that we relate to the world around us. That, I think, is the core of Jesus’ message and the center of the life he lived.
While churches organize teams to hold backyard bible studies in 3rd world countries, arriving in comfortable jets, wearing name-brand clothes, carrying leather-bound bibles, we place ourselves above those we are attempting to ‘save’. Feed the hungry, care for the sick, take in orphans and widows. Yes, even reach out to those marginalized by society. But not to ‘save’ them. It is that condescending approach that has caused the world to live behind borders and to love fences, geographic, political, racial, religious, etc. We are a divided people because well all claim to have the answer to save us all. Even this blog post will accomplish only what I wish it wouldn’t, I’m sure.
If we live, however, lives of humility within our own worlds, in the schools, restaurants, bars, music venues, stores, coffee shops, etc. that we frequent, the world would see the gospel. We don’t need to scream from street corners. We don’t need to hand out pieces of paper with verses and a prayer printed on them. We don’t need to write catchy songs or perform goofy skits. These things are too easy, and obviously ultimately ineffective. Our churches can grow in attendance, and members can be socialized into the group by being dunked in water, but if we want to see real change, if we want to experience the power of the gospel, we must find a way to discover our place in respect to God and allow that realization to transform our lives. When we do that personally, the world will see God.
Noah is a digital culture fiend by training, a digital media manager at JJIE.org by practice, and a proud skeptic of all things “true.” He can be found on Sundays at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA or any time on twitter @nvechols.