by Tony Blair, President, Evangelical Seminary
Marketers have become expert at presenting their products and services as welcome news to their audience. “Good news! This product is now on sale!” or “Good news! We’re better than the competition.” Sometimes they’re telling the truth, but sometimes not, and it is the “not” times that have made our world cynical about messages of good news, even or especially the good news of our faith.
But God does indeed have good news for the world, especially now, and that it is to be found in Jesus. In the past two weeks, we have read in these posts two aspects of the way of Jesus—the way of peace and the fruit of the Spirit. I have deeply appreciated these encouraging reminders of the counter-cultural, perhaps even counter-intuitive nature of Jesus’ message and call upon us. Today we look at a third aspect of that way of Jesus: The Gospel in Word and Deed. To practice the way of Jesus means to proclaim the gospel not only with our words but also with our actions – with how we treat one another.
Much of the reason I embrace Kairos with such enthusiasm, as this community of which we are a part is committed to a mature understanding of the gospel. That means we understand, first, that it is good news. That’s what the word “gospel” (originally “godspell”) means. What Jesus was saying was better than any of his original listeners had imagined. Their reaction is a good litmus test for us: If what the world is hearing from us does not sound like really good news, then maybe we need to examine our message! Too often the message the Church has communicated to the world, in both our words and our deeds, has looked and sounded like bad news, even ugly news.
Second, the good news is Jesus himself. Mark’s introduces his gospel as “the beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.” That’s why his account, along with those of Matthew, Luke, and John, are titled “gospels” to this day. Their gospels include the stories of his death and resurrection but they declare that the whole life and ministry of Jesus is part of the good news. Jesus was gospel and remains gospel, and will be even greater good news to the world when his kingdom is fulfilled.
That’s because, third, the gospel of Jesus is that God is with us. Jesus embodied this. He was proclaimed at his birth as Immanuel, the physical sign that God is indeed with us. He began his public ministry by announcing that “the Spirit of the Lord is on me” (Luke 4:18, NIV). He proclaimed that the kingdom of God was among us, right here, right now. He taught his disciples to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In other words, God is involved, God is present, and God is active. Leonard Sweet (a Kairos faculty member) suggests in his theology of evangelism, Nudge, that Jesus’s teaching can be summarized as a look and listen! God is here! Notice, and pass along the good news to others.
And for those that might be alarmed by the immanent presence of a holy God in a broken world, Jesus had yet more good news… God is FOR us. He’s on our side. When announcing his own ministry, Jesus read what Isaiah had prophesied: “The Spirit of the Lord… has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:19). Jesus was emphasizing the bias of God in the favor of humanity, and especially in favor of those whose experience of life might have convinced them otherwise. He came not to condemn us but to save us (John 3:17).
The rest of Jesus’s ministry illustrate what this good news means for those who receive it and participate in it. All of the assumptions about how life works are turned inside-out: “The first will be last, and the last first.” Blessed most are the ones who seem less blessed. There is nothing to fear; God’s abundance is around every corner. The world gives trouble but God gives peace. God’s people are known by how and whom they love. Death leads to life. And so much more! It was all extraordinarily good news then, and still is today…so good, in fact, that the Church has often shrunk from its implications. We’ve added things to it. We’ve deleted things from it. We’ve turned it into propositions (words) and forgotten to live it (deeds). And every time we do so the world sees from us less than the goodness of true gospel.
In the journey of discipleship that is Kairos, we have that same awesome opportunity to “look and listen!” to this extraordinarily good news and to operate as if it were actually true and actually good.
• We share power freely with others rather than hoarding it for ourselves.
• We challenge conventional wisdom of how things out to be.
• We remain in relationship with others, even those with whom we disagree.
• We prefer to collaborate with others than to compete with them.
• We bridge the gap between the Academy and the Church.
• We break down the walls between faculty, staff, administration, and students.
In these and other ways we share the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, with our words and we share in the gospel with our deeds.