We are pretty damn good at getting the good news confused.
We take bits and pieces of the whole truth and magnify them into pillars with which we can stand firm in our own convictions. We take the truth of Jesus the Messiah, and instead of being shaped by his own complex creation of his own identity, we assign cheap caricatures to the Son of Man. All this serves to do is twist gospel into something that looks remarkably like the words we hold near and dear to our hearts. Even then, we choose to convolute the implications of our doctrines with the actual annunciation of salvation.
We are good at confusing ourselves with religious talk, pious soundbites, and catchphrases spun in just the right way. We make ourselves sound so “Christian”, so spiritual, all while missing the actual message of good news proclaimed in angel songs.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe these tweets and soundbites of judgment and self-assurance actually are the divine good news to a sinner like me. Maybe I’m too wrapped up in my need to be loved to hear the need to repent and never sin again. Maybe I am just bad at being a Christian.
I doubt it.
Everyone wants to find the answer to being a good Christian, or at least better than our neighbor down the street. We lay out our version of following Jesus as the answer to the problem, as if God himself gave our brand of Christian a gold star or smiley face sticker. Whether it be progressive, conservative, liberal, or moderate, we are all convinced that Jesus actually lived our kind of life, spoke our kind of words, and approves of our kind of religious practice.
We forget that we all have tables in the temple.
We are all just playing a game of holy bullshit, bluffing each other with our version of truth. We have gotten so good at it we forget that we are bluffing, and we start believing our own hot air.
We have forgotten that Jesus came to heal and to wound, to chastise and to comfort, to cut and to bleed in our place. We willfully forget the parts about God we don’t like, be it judgment or mercy. We continue to give each other out poker faces forgetting that each of us is holding a shit hand, and no one has the table advantage.
What the hell is wrong with us?
The fact that someone is reading this feeling the need to defend orthodoxy just proves my point: we can’t let the gospel be good news and tension. We have to force the gospel to pick sides.
In doing so, it stops being a game we play. In doing so, we spew holy bullshit from our mouths. In doing so, we rob the gospel of is saving power, replacing it with moral behaviour or fuzzy feelings of acceptance.
The good news about Jesus is wild. It’s a fucking trip, not something we can tame, not something we can assign into our social categories or our religious piety. The good news Jesus came shouting in the streets, to the whores, drunks, money sharks, and religious assholes alike is something we still need to hear. Every day. Every one of us.
“The god Yahweh has reconciled all things to himself in the person of Jesus, the Messiah.”
This isn’t something to tame, to abuse, or to bullshit about.
This is the kind of shit that brings life back from the grave.
The First Lie
The adversary, the serpent, the great dragon whispered into the ear of our primeval mother Eve, “Did God really say…”, and thus the first lie was born. The lie that eats at us all, the lie that says we can’t believe the good news of Yahweh’s announcement of peace, of life, of shalom.
So I ask you: Did Jesus actually say that?
I don’t care what kind of Christian you are. I don’t give a rat’s ass about what tribe is yours, what tradition you come from, or what label you choose to identify your self.
Did Jesus really say your gospel?
When Mark 1.14-15 tells us that Jesus began saying “…the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”, was Jesus talking about your doctrine, your beliefs, your sound bites? Was he talking about mine?
This notion that we somehow have the message of Jesus locked down tight and understood rightly is just a mockers laugh in the face of God.
We don’t understand… but we believe.
And this is the tension. This is the balance we barely hold, the water we walk on, the fear and wonder that grips us as we stand face to face with the only begotten son of the most high god. The misunderstandings and yet still hope we feel is the haunting of the Holy Ghost, the living, sharper than a two-edged sword spirit of Emanuel – of God with us – breathing life into the dry bones that dress in these whitewashed robes of religious affiliations.
You don’t finally get the gospel; the good news gets into you, driving you to obsession and love, to holy fire and sober judgment.
So stop pretending you know what Jesus said.
Just let him speak.