Here's the thing about "The Gospel:"
It's not a call to action.
It's not new rules, or new standards, or a new way to live.
It's not an invitation to some kind of Jesus-fraternity.
The word gospel isn't even a church-word. It's an old school Greek word that meant "good news."
As in, if a Greek general won a battle, he would send out a gospel to the kingdom, announcing his victory, because - no Twitter. Just, "Hey guys. You know that battle that was going on? We won it. So don't be afraid. The enemy has been defeated. Carry on."
What's amazing is that this is the word that early Christians chose to describe their message about Jesus.
I visited a new church with my friends Tyler and Alexis last week, and the pastor touched on this in his message. He said,
"He [a general] was not inviting other people to come help him win the battle; he was not teaching people to do battle; he was just saying, 'I already won the battle. You don't have to be afraid anymore because the enemy's been vanquished.' It [the gospel] is an announcement - not about how people should live, not an example that they should emulate; it's an announcement about what Jesus accomplished on our behalf when he went to the cross, paid for our sin, resurrected in victory, and we believe in him and have eternal life. That's the gospel." -J.D. Greer
At that point, Dan and I turned to each other and lifted our eyebrows like, "Ooooh, snap."
Because enough of "sharing the gospel" that sounds more like a call to arms, right? And enough of "sharing the gospel" that sounds like shaming.
Of course Jesus has standards (and heads up, they're intense), but they aren't standards of admission, and they aren't the gospel. The love of Jesus transforms your life, and by nature, your behaviors: He infuses you with brotherly goodwill, He calls you to courage, and seizes you with compassion. But that's not the gospel.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is an announcement of the completed work of love by Jesus. The gospel is, "Salvation is here. It is finished."
If someone ever tried to motivate you by making the gospel sound like a battle cry, I'm sorry. That wasn't the gospel.
If someone ever bullied you by making the gospel into a list of should's and shouldn'ts, I'm sorry. That wasn't the gospel.
If someone ever manipulated you by making the gospel into some kind of noble cause, I'm sorry. That wasn't the gospel.
If someone ever hurt you by making the gospel sound exclusionary or elusive, or confusing or difficult - that wasn't the gospel.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is this:
"Jesus is alive. The work of love is completed. Salvation is here, for everyone - for you, if you want it. The debt we all owed to Justice has been paid by Jesus himself. He was crucified; he defeated death, and is risen. The enemy is vanquished, and you don't have to be afraid anymore. You're ransomed - free. There is hope and love and forgiveness and joy. Salvation is here."
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Kate Elizabeth Conner is a 27-year-old writer, speaker, and first generation southerner who spends her days learning braille, counseling teenagers via text message, and adjusting to life in North Carolina. Kate authors a self-titled blog, which received more than three million views in two years, due in part to her viral post, 10 Things I Want To Tell Teenage Girls. Kate writes about surviving parenthood, teenagers, and her twenties with her faith and sense of humor intact. She believes in music, coffee, and prose – and in all the world, nothing has taken hold of her like Christ.