This is somewhat of a continuation of what I wrote about weariness and the news. Last night I was watching Father Mitch Pacwa and he related something he’d heard a pastor say years ago, which was that if the gospel is not the good news for us then it ceases to be good for us. The more I thought about that the more I saw the point.
When words are used in a particular way they dominate our minds by how they are used instead of what they really mean. We see this with the word “gay”, for example. We are so accustomed to calling news programs “news” that usage dominates meaning even though much that is on the “news” is not new in any way.
The gospel was good news when first revealed because, for example, “since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.” (Jn. 9:32) It was good news because a way was now open for mankind to walk out of spiritual slavery just as the Israelites walked out of Egypt.
In the early stages of Christianity there were those who wanted to make sure that new converts also observed the law of Moses (Acts 15:5). But the apostles rejected this based on the fact that the Spirit was given to the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Acts 15:8). In doing this they kept the good news free of baggage that would have weighed it down.
But it seems that this same battle to keep the good news free of baggage must be fought over and over again. The good news is, essentially, liberty. That is, of course, liberty in Christ, not liberty as the world generally thinks of it as your right to do whatever pleases you.
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. – Gal. 5:13
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. – 2 Cor. 3:17
But it’s generally not the world’s definitions we have to worry about. Churches do a very good job of promoting problem definitions on their own. Just as in Acts (and depending on the church circles one frequents) it can be the good news plus a number of things. Take the so called “prosperity gospel” for instance. You can join a church that preaches it and not particularly buy it yourself. But even though it’s not part of the official bylaws, mission statement or published doctrine, the indirect pressure put on you to go with the flow will make you feel like the oddball. So it’s, in practice, the good news plus prosperity.
Let’s take another example – healing. We know that God can and does heal people, sometimes in very miraculous ways. But there are some, particularly some television preachers, who make healing a circus. I have known Christians who were made to feel like something was wrong with their faith level because they weren’t healed of a particular thing. I remember a woman in a church I once attended who died, and I actually heard someone say it was because she didn’t have the right faith. The hyper-healers are cruel because there are words of comfort for those who suffer that do not include healing in the popular sense.
For to this (suffering) you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps… 1 Pet. 2:21
Not that we are called to walk around in pain all the time but that, when suffering is unavoidable, we have an example to make the suffering redemptive. There are those who suffer, mentally and physically, in ways they cannot escape for different reasons. The faith healers do not speak to such people. But they can, with redemptive suffering, learn to, as one minister says, “offer it up”.
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. - 1 Pet. 2:19
The folly of adding anything to the good news, even what sounds good like “God always wants you well” nullifies the healing ointment of liberty in the good news.
Dead flies putrefy the perfumer's ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; So does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor. – Ecc. 10:1
It is unfortunate that listening to the many voices that speak in Jesus’ name is like listening to a radio with a lot of static. You have to keep adjusting the knob to try and get a clear station where the Lord’s voice is simple and clear.
The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed… - Luke 4:18
That is the good news without the various additions we’ve attached to it that have made it neither good nor news. There are other additions I haven’t mentioned here. Each one of them has made it “new and improved” good news (even though they didn’t necessarily intend to do so) like a brand of soap powder.
They all erect walls that Christ tore down (Eph. 2:14) and make veritable ghettos out of Christians who should be living in better spiritual neighborhoods.