“And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach and publish openly the good news (the Gospel) to every creature [of the whole human race].” – Mark 16:15 (AMP)
After his death and resurrection, Jesus issued a commission to the disciples commanding them to go into all the earth to preach the Gospel – the “Good News.” But what exactly is this Good News? This question has been on my mind a lot lately as I've watched the discussion proceed on social media regarding comments that Chick-fil-A’s CEO made regarding same sex marriage. It would seem many have found nothing “good” about the news Christians are bringing to the table. But the core message of Christianity is inherently good, as is the God of Christianity, so how is it that our message isn’t getting across in the way we've intended?
The Good News is generally understood to be the story of Jesus and how his ultimate sacrifice and our faith in him have reconciled us to God forever and freed us from sin. While the implications of Jesus’ actions and our faith are tremendous, the story itself is quite simple. You could technically present the Good News to someone in less than two minutes flat. But somehow we’ve found a way to expand the story to include other things that can detract from its clarity, power and effectiveness. We’ve added details to the core message and in so doing, we’re running the risk of hearing Jesus say, “That’s not what I told you to do at all.” Here are a few “additions” to the Gospel that have the potential to compromise our message, especially on the social media scene:
Prioritizing the Culture of Christianity. The church of the West has become expert at creating atmospheres and hosting events that draw people to the Christian “lifestyle.” We indoctrinate people into a certain culture we feel best represents the way the Bible tells us to live. This may include highlighting certain rules or guidelines for the Christian life, or even providing the perfect sound bite to respond to the day’s most recent moral or ethical dilemma. The problem here is that God never told us to create a culture (or a social club) to respond to the pain and suffering of the world; he told us to spread the word about Jesus. Having a culture is fine, but when that culture is elevated above the truth and the Gospel itself, there will always be a problem. Culture can be a shadow of what God is really like. Culture has the potential to rob us of freedom and put God in a box. Culture can make us legalistic. The Good News, on the other hand, is freeing. Putting our faith in Jesus allows us to let go of the false comforts of culture and allows culture to simply be a context. Culture shouldn’t be the thing that identifies us as Christians; our profession of Jesus as our Lord and Savior and the power He brings to our lives should drive the identifiable fruit of a Christian life.
Arguing the Rules of Christianity. Any time we proclaim what we believe or the “rules” of Christianity without carrying the Spirit of Jesus, we’ve lost the plot. Faith in Jesus is what empowers a person to believe the basic tenets of the Christian faith. Without foundational faith in Christ, it is impossible for a person to truly understand or reason out why certain behaviors are good or bad. There are all sorts of daily happenings that can fall into a “gray area” if we don’t have the mind of Christ and the conviction of the Holy Spirit to keep us on track. This is why naked theology upsets so many people. Things are out of context. Holiness only makes sense to a person who has been made holy by the blood of Jesus. Only a renewed mind can comprehend why certain behaviors are detestable. If we want people to start acknowledging right and wrong in a manner consistent with the Bible, we have to start preaching the Gospel and letting the “rules” of Christianity take a back seat. We have to keep the main thing the main thing – faith in Jesus Christ preceding all. Only then will we truly see a transformation of choices and opinions. Trying to get to that kind of transformation without faith and the Holy Spirit breeds legalism, and legalism leads to death.
Heralding the Perks of Christianity. Jesus said he came to give us life and to give it to us in abundance (John 10:10). Psalm 27:13 says that David expected to see the goodness of God while he was in the land of the living. There are certain perks to the Christian life and we shouldn’t be ashamed of them. God wants us to enjoy the blessings he bestows upon us. But when we make these things the impetus for belief or we try to “sell” Christianity as a way of gaining favor in life, we’re walking a very fine line. People can be enamored with the results of a Christian life but never be truly converted. Acts 8 tells the story of Simon, the sorcerer. He saw the great power that came upon people when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and he offered the apostles money to teach him how to wield this power. But Peter rebuked Simon for trying to obtain the grace of God by unholy methods. You cannot separate the “perks” of God from the God who grants them. When we place the fruit of a Christian life above the Root of the Christian life, we’re putting people at a disadvantage. It sounds a bit crazy, but we might actually be setting people up for the practice of idolatry if we aren’t careful. We need to share Jesus and his story, untainted. This doesn’t mean we can’t discuss the perks of our faith as a result of our belief in Jesus, but we should certainly be mindful of how we present our stories of provision and increase to those who do not yet believe. Lest we become a stumbling block for others, including those we friend and follow on social media.