The Gospel. Getting it across well is a tenuous thing. For the first instance it is the good news of God. It is John 3:16 for God so loved the world that he sent his only Son… The idea that God even allows pardon is amazing. Furthermore not only does he allow pardon but he actively makes it possible himself. You could say he literally put himself on the line for this good news. Well so far so good right? Well…
The problem comes into play in that people do not always take this news as good. At first glance it makes us think that if the news is not coming across as good then perhaps we have done something to the news to muddy the goodness, that’s it right? Well again, well…
The idea that because the Gospel is good news means that it should be an easy pill to swallow and in fact be pleasurable is not quite so…Biblical. The goodness of the message is the nature of the message and not at all about the reception of it. In fact if this was true then not only would evangelism be easy but it would be fun and more people would naturally do it. But what does Paul say about the message and how will it be received? This is important.
14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2)
Paul explains that while he spreads the fragrance of God in the knowledge of Christ (the Gospel) only to those who are being saved will the aroma be a pleasing one. Those who are not being saved will only experience the reminder of death within their olfactory. Now the obvious Calvinism here aside, what does it say the response to the good news will be?
Hope to those with hope and hopelessness to those hopeless. What this also means then is that it is not necessarily that the good news is misunderstood as not so good news. It is actually part of the response to the actual good news to be a little put off. The good news is not efficacious sometimes. So some people get it, some don’t?
At first glance it seems like this might simplify things a bit, but it doesn’t actually do this. The reason of course is the parable of the prodigal son. It may be that it rubs our noses the wrong way in this season but there may in fact be a coming season when it does not. This is why we do not write off people as Calvinistic-ally damned. This is why we Arminian-ally continually preach the Gospel; it may just be this next season that the harvest comes in?
All this to say however that we should not be too concerned with the negative responses to Gospel as if the good news part is somehow broken. We should always very much so be aware of our approach. Cold calls never make friends. Our intentions must be good, our purpose redemptive. The content of the Gospel however is not ours to fiddle with. The idea of salvation means there is a need. The idea of a rescue means their should be an awareness of a need for deliverance.
So yes the Gospel means sin is a topic for discussion as it the very wall of separation that curtails relationship with God. If the world gets upset and wants to tell us that our definitions of evil are not what Christ had in mind, we simply understand that sometimes, to some people, the message stinks. But this is an issue with the hearer. The response to Paul proclaiming the Gospel was often violence.
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands. (2 Corinthians 11)
The Gospel was not something that Paul was ashamed of even when it meant he was at odds with the world. This is the point: It meant Paul was at odds with the world and it will mean we are at odds with the world as well. We are not to muse if we have been misunderstood and decide perhaps we need a new approach or new emphasis. If it is the Gospel we share, we should understand the consequences. So learn what they are.
When Jesus says “take up your cross and follow me” he was not giving a cute picture for life as a follower of Christ that we would experience our “trials” but it was a calling to death. This is what Paul was talking about. Now I wish that doing ministry meant we would be understood. I wish that when I share the Gospel or talk about the need for forgiveness of sin, my concern came across also. I wish that my empathy would carry over into their souls while sharing but there are literally worlds colliding. Jesus says the Gospel will be foolishness and a stumbling block for a reason.
The world will not like it and that is part of being a Christian, the longing for the country, that heavenly city that is not now our own. As much as I don’t want to be misunderstood as spreading hate, let it be known that the Christian message of the Gospel is repent of your unbelief, because to not know God and refuse to be reconciled to Christ is to be on the path of actual doom. The news is good not necessarily because it initially sounds positive but because it actually delivers us from a sure destination of destruction, but not only that, but it offers reconciliation to the King of Kings. It offers eternal life rather than death. It offers a home with God rather to reside in the depths of hell with evil.
Is that kind of clarity less offensive? Well no, it isn’t is it?
It is not going to joyfully tingle the ears of someone who will not believe that there is any kind of life beyond death and that a God off somewhere would have any actual commentary on their lives. But that is our road to travel. We are all on the path to mount doom. The question is will any of us escape and make it to the heavenly gates and gain entry into the Kingdom? Well I hope so, and that is why Christians share. We want that deliverance for everyone, we want that salvation for everyone, we want that forgiveness to be granted. People are not just animals without a destiny. There is a lot in the balance, so if you are a soul whose intentions are good? Pray, Oh Lord please don’t let us be misunderstood.