the message is the messenger

Our actions either affirm the gospel message of Jesus Christ or we fit the gospel message Jesus the conformist into our actions, thus contorting the gospel into a new one entirely.  If I told my children that I love them and then I beat them, then wouldn’t they have a distorted understanding of the message of love?  It takes less than one generation to change the message.

This idea speaks much to my concern with the state of the church in America.  By our actions we affirm the centrality of ourselves.  By our purchasing power we affirm that we can supply all of our own needs.   Our self-indulgences help us to forget there was ever such a thing called temptation. By our travel into the cosmos we can practically touch the heavens.  Through our denial of the existence of evil we nullify the need to overcome such evil.  And the gospel message becomes a tame, easy message of sinning and feeling good about it.

The message of the gospel is most readily preached through our actions, whether they are correct or not.  Our actions are read and interpreted with the ease of a children’s book.  We say common phrases like, “don’t shoot the messenger.”  But so many times, the message is the messenger.

I have been getting into the conversation of Christianity and homosexuality a lot lately.  This is yet one more reason as a Christian I cannot celebrate gay marriage or homosexuality in general.  I know I will sound like an extremist and fundamentalist with this next line, but I think those serious Christians who do affirm such behavior are at risk of changing the gospel message entirely.  The message will be, “Jesus wants you to fulfill all of your desires.”  Professor Niebuhr reminds us that this gospel does not lead to freedom in his famous quote, “man is most free in the realization that he is not free.”  Niebuhr reminds us that life with Jesus is about submitting our entire life, including our desires to him and living in the freedom of being filled with Him.

It is not just the homosexuality conversation that changes the message.  Our ravenous consumerist desires, coupled with our individualistic needs have probably done more damage to the message of Christ than any case of pastoral infidelity.  Our thirst for fulfilling our needs through common consumer practices are even de facto blessed by the institution of the church, which needs to have the newest, latest greatest gadgets as well.  I suppose we accidentally create desire for stuff rather than for transformation.  This is a problem that infects everyone and actually does serious damage to the poorest among us.  It again changes the message to, “I can solve all of my problems and I can have all of my needs met through a simple transaction.”

So what is the message of Christ?  What did he say the Gospel was?  What Jesus actually said was this: “The time has come, The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news,” (Mark 1:14) It could take many pages to explain this phrase fully, but it could be taken as simply as saying that His ways are not our ways, His kind of love is not our kind of love, so we need to change our minds, submit our actions to what God is doing and wants to do all around us.

There are many who will disagree with what I am suggesting here, I would welcome you to straighten me out in the comments below.  But I would also challenge you that before you did that, ask yourself what your actions preach.  How does the way you live amplify, distort or change the gospel of Christ?

May God bless you richly today,

May He shine his face upon you,

And give you peace.


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