What is the Gospel?

I have had a splinter in my mind about the idea that Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus. I didn't really realize it was there until recently.

You know that skit that pretty much every evangelical has seen ad nauseum about Jesus coming to live in your home. You go out, forget about Jesus, let him clean your house except for that one room, yada yada yada...its a great trip, if you are into guilt.

You have maybe encountered someone who talks about Jesus like he is their best friend, maybe even 'Best Friend ForEVER'. After you talk to this person, you wonder why you don't get it. Why is it so difficult for you to be best friends with someone who left this earth 2000 years ago? Maybe you need to spend more time with Jesus (remember the skit? It's still working its magic).

So you start 'listening' for God. There are some really 'spiritual' people who seem to hear from God all the time. 'God told me this or that...(usually about you and how unspiritual you are)' or 'Maybe God is trying to tell you something'...so they say. (BTW, with God, there is no 'try' there is only 'do' ... if God is really God). Funny thing is, you can never hear anything. Maybe you don't have that close a relationship with God...maybe you don't really love God...?

You get the picture.

What if this 'relationship' idea has been taken too far? Maybe our concern now is to be properly related 'to' God and the relationship 'with' God comes in heaven?

The book of Acts is a pretty important source of information on how the early church formed and it shows a distinct pattern in how the Gospel was framed and communicated in the first century. The apostles used phrases and ideas like forgiveness of sin, guilt, Jesus bringing either judgment or forgiveness, the crucifixion, the nature of God, righteousness and self-control.

There is not one mention in the book of Acts of either the love of God or a personal relationship with him. Interesting.

What are the implications of reducing our emphasis on having a personal relationship with Jesus?

-God becomes transcendent again. If God is like our good buddy down the street, then He is not God. If I can kick the crap out of God, like I can my good buddy down the street, then there is something wrong.

-We can rightly fear God. I don't fear my good buddy down the street. I like him, but I can kick the crap out of him. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.

14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.

-Worship becomes more than the sappy sentimentality of a 'simple song of love...'. Worship is awe, fear, trembling, relief...

-Maybe we realize that in the middle of our crappy lives (if our lives are crappy), that there is no use in complaining because it's not about US!

-Maybe when we realize that it's not about us, we will quit this church-hopping garbage and plug into a community of believers that actually gives a rat's patootie about engaging our culture rather than hiding from it or capitulating to it.

I'm still kickin' the tires on this idea...input would be sweet.

For further reading...

**Note: I am quite proud of myself for making it through this whole post without using the word 'ass'. It would have fit so nicely in a couple places, but I didn't want to offend anyone's sensibilities, or have L-A tell on me again.


Dad C said...

Good thoughts on the "Jesus my best friend" extreme. It probably loses the "fear of the Lord" from the relationship. Yet when we "remain" in Jesus like a branch in a vine, it is Jesus' idea that we move from being His servants to being His friend. John 15:14,15. However the same passage says "you are my friends if you do what I command." So there is still clearly the fact that He is the Awesome One and you would not be able to kick the (what is it you kick on your friend?) I like the idea that with the right view of God it will affect our relationship to our community of believers and to our culture.

Laurel-Anne said...

I wonder if the reason we talk so much about a relationship with God, and God's love is because it's way easier (and "nicer") to say "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" than to say "You are a sinner and you need God to forgive you." Cliches might not work as well if we tried to convince people of their sin and their need for a savior. We might even have to build relationships, and maybe even talk to our non-Christian friends about Jesus.

Perhaps this is one more way the church has been influenced by culture instead of the other way around.


**Note: You can say "ass" as much as you like on your own blog. Oh look! I can too! I only told on you cuz I didn't want you messing up my blog with your potty mouth.

paulz said...

perhaps our understanding of "friendship" is wacked?

Friends in the bible are known as people who are willing to "wound" us once in awhile, but apparantly those wounds are better than an enemy's kisses.

Jesus is said to be closer than a brother, a true friend...indeed a friend of sinners.

yes, that people understood Jesus' friendship in tangible ways 2000 years ago does pose a problem for us today; we can't touch him anymore (although some claim they can, and if you buy one of their green hankerchiefs you will soon find annonomous checks in your mail box...but that's another story Mr. Poppof...)...

the gospel is "Good News" so we must remember that the message we are responsible for is one of good news. If we begin with the wrath of God then a warped idea of "fear" may influence someone to praying a prayer to stay out of hell. However, if we begin with God's love, cleary seen from and through creation, and in the life of Jesus, then the message may lead to liberation and not oppression.

the book of Acts may be lacking in words about God's love, but it was not lacking in acts of love in the name of God (everyone shared, ate together, no one was in need, people were healed...).

We are told to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." there is a difference between pushing our agenda on people who don't care and giving an answer to those who are curious enough to ask. but when they do ask, do it with gentleness and respect.

how does this relate to being a friend with/of Jesus? we are his ambassadors and re-presentatives, so how we love others is how we love God. if i am someone's friend then i would want to represent them properly.

wow...that was a lot of babbling...

Laurel-Anne said...

pz - I think you had a couple of good paragraphs - I like the one about the gospel being Good News and the part about showing love in Acts rather than talking about it.

sans auto said...

I think it's counterintuitive. We often think, "good friend=nice, enemy=mean", but I don't really think that's it. My best friends are those who know me well enough and have the courage to tell me when I am doing something stupid.
My wife and i got married (in part) because we can help one another improve. That means that we have some hard conversations where she tells me that she sees some things I need to work on and we work on those things together. It makes life harder... we don't just take the easy way through... we try to make life meaningful.
Likewise, our relationship with Jesus isn't like your good pal that always makes you feel good... You sometimes fear his call to repentance, but at the same time that is what makes a relationship strong, having the faith/trust to do what your close friends advice (not blindly, but when you know that is what you need to be doing, even if it's hard).
The close relationships (especially my wife and my Savior)in my life are those that make my life the hardest and often unpopular amongst those who don't know me well. But it is those relationships that I most want to develop so that I can become the person I most want to be and make the differences in the world that need to be made.