The point of the Gospel?
August 3, 2006
I recently wrote a post where one of my best orthodox blogging buddies was offended because I compared the difference between the way we saw the gospel message and the point of Christ’s coming as either:
- A ministry which radically transformed the world due to the new message and hope it brought; or
- A moment of “mystical murder” which somehow magically saved the world.
Now, I think there is another option– which is 3) all of the above- and that is where I happen to fit in.
But I didn’t start there. And while I think the point of fundamentalist evangalism starts with emphasis #2, I, quite frankly, am uncomfortable with an outreach that starts with an emphasis on a need to first begin in belief in the more supernatural elements of the crucifiction and resurrection.
As I said, I did not start at that position. I began my journey believing that no matter what I believed God loved me. I modeled that off of the unconditional love I received from my parents. I was always taught in Sunday School that God must love me even more than my parents did, and I figured that if God loves me that much he must not care too much if I believe in something so unbelievable as a guy being raised from the dead 2000 years ago.
But, I reasoned, such a being would probably care about how I lived my life– as my parents did. He might not love me any less, but would be disappointed if I didn’t stretch myself to my fullest, reach for the best I could be, and use my full potential. And that was something I eventually came to equate with the teachings of Jesus– approach number 1, above; focus on relationships, don’t judge, love one another, take care of the outcast, and so on.
And even as I began to become more involved in church again, I began to realize this: even if I change my mind on issue #2, how is it going to change my life? What am I going to do differently? And I couldn’t answer that question, other than some intangible thing that would happen in my mind. But, focusing on #1 and asking the same question had profound effects– for all the reasons I’ve listed. Walking in Jesus shoes– trying to live as Jesus lived– is much harder than just believing something. So I focused on that.
Eventually, God found me, and I found my spirituality again. Even after that, it took a while for me to believe in such a mysterious event as the resurrection– and I’ve talked to many Christians who still don’t believe in a literal resurrection. But I do now think it probably did happen. But I think that whether or not it happened is less important to me than the story of it happening, and how I take that story and apply it to my life– again, how do I change the way I act, how do I behave differently towards God, my neighbors, and myself, given that wonderful message? And so, if I were to find out tomorrow that the resurrection never really factually happened, my faith would be just as intact as it is today. Because I know that God’s love for me is just as intact as it is today.
I think that is a problem in our outreach in the church. I know that there are many, many, many people who came to the church only after acknowledging that the resurrection was valid. I think that is great. If it works for them- more power to them. But for me, it is a self-centered focus on “what can God do for me?” or “How can I get to heaven?” I think that the more altruistic focus is “how can I help bring heaven to earth?”, which for me is the point of #1. I understand though, that some can’t think about #1 until they’ve been assured of #2. Of course there are other viewpoints and valid reasons for focusing on either #1 or #2, and there are also points #3, 4, 5 and probably a lot more.
That’s because we live in a diverse world. God is a big god. We have to acknowledge that God works in many ways, and that those ways may work differently for different people. What works for you may not work for me, and God knows that. God did create both of us, after all. Lack of that understanding is a big part of the problem in the church today- I mean come on, there are 6 <i>billion</i> people in the world today. We can’t honestly be so self-involved to think that a one-size-fits-all religion (usually the size that fits us) would accomodate them all.
What works to bring people in to the orthodox pew will definitely not work to bring me into the church– it will send me running. And what works to bring me into the church will probably make an orthodox person’s blood boil and wonder if he’s even in a Christian church.
Diversity is a gift from God. We have to embrace it as such. Some people will say that by embracing diversity we are following a new religion. I don’t think that is true. I think we are just finally starting to recognize that a lot of the people who have either been silently not getting their needs met, or not attending at all, are finally able to become more engaged in their faith. That’s a win for everyone. It is such a shame that we have to fight like cats and dogs to get there.