Faith Meets World

Reflections on faith in a messed-up but beautiful world

Category: Gospel (Page 2 of 4)

The powers exposed

Crucifixion lightningSacrificial religion and violent power have been close allies since time immemorial.

By sacrificial religion, I mean the belief that God must be appeased through blood sacrifices. And by violent power, I mean the enforcement of one’s will through coercive means. Each of these on its own is problematic; put them together and place them in the hands not only of individuals but of nations and empires, and they wreak havoc.

In the Bible, we first see them come together when Cain kills Abel. The same old story is then re-enacted in myriad ways and forms down the centuries: violent power is used to impose the will of a people group, a nation or an empire on others, and sacrifices are offered to various gods – including Israel’s God Yahweh – to keep them happy.

Fast-forward to first century Palestine. The ingredients are in place: a religious machine geared towards maintaining an almost unending flow of blood to keep God happy, and a mighty occupying force determined to keep the people under its heel. And notice how the occupying power is quite happy to collude with the religious system, and vice versa, if it is expedient for both of them to do so.

And so we have it: sacrificial religion sentences Jesus to death, and violent power supplies the apparatus of execution and supervises the gruesome proceedings. It’s the perfect marriage: Caiaphas and Pilate working together to murder the Son of God. No doubt they congratulated themselves on the neatness of their solution: for Caiaphas, it was expedient that one man should die for the people, and for Pilate, the life of one wandering Galilean was an inconsequential price to pay to keep those troublesome Jews from rising up and making trouble. Job done, everyone happy, the world rolls on.

Read More

Only one cross

CrucifixionThere are so many gospels out there.

But surely, I hear you object, there’s only one gospel?

Well, yes, there is only one actual, true gospel, but there are many false gospels masquerading as truth, often in perfectly respectable churches. Some of them are quite obvious – the health, wealth and prosperity gospel, perhaps, being the most blatant example – while others are much more subtle.

One thing these false gospels all have in common is that those who embrace them do not think of them as gospels at all. Indeed, most churches and Christians who embrace false gospels would very likely agree among themselves that “the gospel” is the message that if you pray the sinner’s prayer and do your best to live a life that honours God, Jesus will save you and you will go to heaven when you die. Most would agree that Jesus is the only way to salvation. However, while most churches may profess that belief, many have functional gospels that are quite different.

You see, I’m using the word gospel here to mean anything that promises life. I think this is justified. We live in a world of death, manifested in many forms: sickness, war, famine, poverty, slavery, relationship breakdown, stress, depression, and so on. In this world of death, “good news” is the word of life.

Read More

A dramatic announcement

The events surrounding Augustus’s coming to power are […] ‘good news’, euangelia, a word virtually always in the plural in such contexts, though, interestingly, always in the singular in the New Testament. This ‘good news’ is not merely a nice piece of information to cheer you up on a bad day, but the public, dramatic announcement that something has happened through which the world has changed for ever and much for the better.

— N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God

A shocking gospel

There’s no way of preaching the gospel of forgiveness without shocking people with what seems to be the indiscriminateness of it.

— Robert Farrar Capon

No more excuses

We have no more excuses, not because we’re under judgment, but because we are free.

— Ken Blue and Alden Swan, The Gospel Uncensored

Grace for those who need it most

A couple of days ago, Matt B. Redmond reposted a fantastic little article from a few years back on his blog Echoes and Stars. Here’s a paragraph to whet your appetite:

Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son, whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when the son wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for whores, adulterers and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune – they want ‘home’ but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray.

Christmas is about the gospel of grace for those who need it.

Go and read the whole thing. This is what Christmas is about.

Free in his death

He will come to the world’s sins with no lists to check, no tests to grade, no debts to collect, no scores to settle. He will wipe away the handwriting that was against us and nail it to his cross (Colossians 2:14). He will save, not some minuscule coterie of good little boys and girls with religious money in their piggy banks, but all the stone-broke, deadbeat, overextended children of this world whom he… will set free in the liberation of his death.

— Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of Grace

Page 2 of 4

All content on this site is copyright © Rob Grayson 2013-2016 unless otherwise indicated