If you have been in Christian circles for any part of time the term, “gospel,” is a part of our everyday lexicon as it should be since it represents the hope and distinctiveness of Christianity: the good news of Jesus death and resurrection and the hope of eternal life.
There are lots of books on this topic and my goal of this post isn’t to give a treatise on this subject. I want to share an observation.
Its messy because He wants me to love the unlovable and bless those who persecute me.
It’s uncomfortable because He wants me to grab a cross and throw it over my shoulder.
It demands everything: my life, my goals, my dreams, my time, my passions, my hobbies, my education…
It draws me out of my comfort zone.
It prunes the branches that are not only dead in my life, but the ones that are bearing fruit.
It demands me to offer forgiveness even when it’s not deserved.
It requires me to move beyond just tolerating people to truly loving them.
It urges me to serve by kneeling, grabbing some water and a cloth, and to wash feet that are dirty.
As pastor and author David Platt reminds us about the gospel, “it demands radical sacrifice…”
If this is true of the gospel, then why is it good news? For this simple reason…“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)
I see that here at Monadnock Ministries. There are times where I would like to replace our “Welcome Home” sign with “Triage Unit” or “Emergency Room.” The brokenness is very real and I am not just talking about the guests we serve…I realize more and more that the closer I get to the cross the more broken I am…the more I realize how much I fall short and how much it cost Him.
A recent trip to Haiti with our Love in Motion ministry really brought this to light for me. Because of my work with at-risk families, I am very familiar with US poverty. Going to Port Au Prince was overwhelming for me because of the plight and need of the Haitian people, especially their children. It’s one reason why we sponsor a child through Love in Motion. But seeing it firsthand changed me. One situation that really hit home for me was witnessing true street orphans, in which I saw 2 young girls surviving on the street that were the same age as my daughters. Paul Deasy, our director of Love in Motion, had shared with me that some of the girls recently brought into the orphanage had been sexually abused and/or raped. As I came face to face with them I saw they were wearing dresses that were way too big for them and dirt smeared across their faces. I knew they were going to sleep tonight without the protection and safety of a family…of a father…without hope.
The gospel is messy…it makes me uncomfortable. If the Gospel isn’t radically changing me…is it the Gospel? If I have good news to share and I am unwilling to share it…does it mean I never received it? These are hard questions for me to ask of myself…of God. But I have to ask them…
How about you? How is the Gospel radically changing your perspective about who you are? About how you view your own marriage and family? Your church involvement? When was the last time you served those less fortunate?
The Gritty Gospel
As I wrestle with these questions and continue to come to a fuller understanding of the messiness of the Gospel I wonder if I have the courage to fully come to terms with it.
This is where Grit comes in.
Angela Duckworth, author and a leading expert in this field of grit, defines it as: “We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.”
So this definition begs this question: Is my gospel gritty? As we see in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, He fully embodied the “gritty individual.” His life modeled for us the messiness of loving and saving people. This example would eventually become the good news I would not only have to share…but to emulate.
So…is the gospel I have placed my trust in gritty? Has it just become another aspect of the many wonderful options of my journey? OR is it defining my journey because of how uncomfortable it makes me? Is the gospel something that I have continued to maintain in my life despite “failure, adversity or plateaus…” We see this hard truth in scripture…
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me…” (Revelations 3:15-20)
These are tough questions…but they need to be asked.
As I struggle to come to terms with these implications for me and my family; for my staff and the churches and families we serve in New England…have we truly counted the cost of discipleship and the implications that the God we serve is calling us into the difficult and the uncomfortable reality of the brokenness and messiness so that the world may see the Good News? Not because we have it all figured out, but exactly because we don’t! We are still in need of the truth of the Gospel as it continues to define our journey. The Gospel then becomes more about my Heavenly Father and those we are called to love and serve…it’s actually not about me or us.
So, is your gospel gritty? Are you still fighting the good fight of faith?
I hope so…this messy world is depending on it.
A word of caution…and one I have been wrestling with for a few years…especially for those who are in Christian leadership: Why are we so concerned about establishing our own platform and voice? We sometimes promote ourselves like “we have already arrived” by crafting our talking points and messages in such a way that we are no longer sharing the “good news,” but pandering “the gospel” to get a following, buy a book, get a speaking engagement, get a “tweet” or most viewed video… (James 4:13-17) I am not against these things, but at the end of the day if it’s about our platform…we are missing it completely. We need to be more concerned about establishing His platform than our own.