This is a bit of a repetition of a previous post, but I was asked to write 'A Thought for the Month' for one of the church newsletters and I'm posting it here in the spirit of 'don't let a good piece of writing go to waste'.
A few weeks ago, 'The Church Times' carried an interview with the American Christian author Philip Yancey who will be appearing at The Greenbelt Festival this year. Yancey is one of my favourite Christian authors because he often seems to provide one important thought that leaves a person thinking for a long time afterwards, even if it was something that you knew already!
In this interview, Yancey said: 'Jesus said the truth shall set you free, and he came to give life in all its fullness. If it doesn't sound like good news, it's not the gospel. If it's not setting you free and enlarging life, then it's not Jesus's message.'
I think that this is an important nugget of wisdom because it gives us two 'touchstones' of what our Christian lives can look like if we are faithful to the gospel: freedom and an enlarged life. But this idea seems to make some people nervous. Indeed, I think that there will always be individuals in all cultures and faiths who will be made nervous by any teaching that tries to set human beings free rather than to control them.
Scripture makes it clear that Christian freedom is not about the pursuit of private pleasure, but rather that it about the pursuit of justice and goodness and righteousness. The simplest illustration of this is that warm feeling we get when we help another person out or when we contribute our time or money to a worthwhile cause. Indeed, psychology understands that looking outside of our own welfare to the welfare of others is fundamental to mental health and to a life well-lived.
There are many voices in our culture that will try to tell us that the message of Jesus is not a good news story. Some will tell us that Jesus' message is bad news because they wish to discredit Christianity. Others behave as if they believe that God's love for humanity depends on our good behaviour, so their message to us is that we'd better strive for perfection rather than rest in the assurance that we're forgiven sinners.
But Yancey's idea is a good touchstone. Ask yourself 'Does this action, thought, or message point people to the love of God or to the love of others? Will it result in freedom and an enlarged life for everyone and not just for those who already have power?' If it does, then it is good news and it is God-honouring.
May the blessing of God be with us all as we endeavour to demonstrate his good news in our lives!