21 March 2011

The Gospel Message

Image taken from: Slap Upside the Head[1]

I'm not much in the mood these days for posting long posts, but something someone said on a friend's Facebook thread got me thinking. It was that "the Gospel message" is: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

Now, I'm hardly going to disagree with this. And, just in case you harbour a sneaking suspicion that I do disagree with the statement, let me assure you that I wholeheartedly agree with it.

My question, however, is: "What does it mean to believe in Jesus as Lord?"

You know, we talk about how our faith is supposed to be relevant to our everyday life and, frankly, unless we unpack what exactly it means that Jesus is our Lord, I don't see how we make "good news" out of this statement.

What I learned as a child was that I should "accept" Jesus as my Lord: that is was some kind of cognitive agreement like: "Oh yeah, I believe in gravity. I believe that it's fact that when I let go of something it falls to my feet." "Oh yeah, Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth, that's a fact."

So what?

I think we need to unpack that statement a lot more if it's going to be "good news" for me, for you or for our world.

What do you think?


[1] I am simply crediting a website for a great illustration. Please let's not be distracted by the general content of the website.


J A Y B said...

Too true - we are (Christians anyway) guilty of making the statement without understanding that it is a statement of 'action' not just fact - we state we believe in gravity as a fact but we don't have to act upon it, like everybody throwing things in the air to fall down for instance, or deliberately knocking a cup of the table to prove the point - twas an accident really...

We are not just believers we are called to act out our faith. Once we really start doing that we start to see what it is to say that Jesus is our Lord and believe in him. As we act not talk about what we think Jesus is all about, that is abstract and lazy, we will find that some of our actions are not Christ related at all but self-opinionated and self-related. You cannot be a Christian and not care about the plight of others as in I'm all right Jack, and it is God's will, He'll sort you out. The first century Christians were known for their behaviour not just their rhetoric.

Very though provoling point Pam.
Christian regards to you and yours.

WomanistNTProf said...

I agree we need to unpack the statement "I believe Jesus is Lord." And we may be unpacking it all our lives; and maybe we need to be at peace with that. The word "Lord" is a very patriarchal term, and I know many don't want to hear that, but it is. Recently read an article in the Africana Bible by Wil Gafney of how when Moses came down from the Mountain he changed God's named from "Iam/will be [the Hebrew meaning of YHWH" to the masculine "Lord"--interesting. Off the cuff I think for me it is a statement about the primacy and significance of Jesus in my life. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus? The Gospel of John's Jesus at 5:39 says "you search the scriptures [OT] for in them you think you find eternal life, but they are those that testify of me." The foundation of my believing in Jesus [distinguishing Jesus from God] comes from my interpretation of the scriptures, which we know are varied. We can get into the business of coming up with definitive definitions and interpretations and then deciding who is and who is not a "Jesus is Lord" Christian or Christian at all, as some have done in the case of our present US President. I think it is something we need to be in constant dialogue about. Jesus is a living Word that encounters us perennially and whom we encounter perennially and in various ways.

Agree with JayB that our faith should an active, living one--this says Jesus is Lord!

PamBG said...

I accept that "Lord" is a patriarchal term and I'd be interested to hear your take on how to handle Scripture texts where patriarchal terms are used. Where I am now, we are actually required to change the texts before we read them to non-patriarchal texts and I confess this sometimes makes me nervous WRT the text itself. I'm not sure what to do.

For me, the Gospel message is less about what I "believe" - as in cognitively think - than it is about what I act out, how I live.

We say that being a Christian is about relationship with God but we still turn that relationship into making some affirmations about Jesus' identity rather than about living as he would live.

On another blog, I read someone quoting Tom Wright as saying that one test of following Jesus is whether the story of one's actions would "fit" with the stories of the lived experience of Jesus and the early church in the NT. I like that as a test of making Jesus my "Lord" rather than ideas.

WRT the President's brand of Christianity. I agreed with almost everything I heard his pastor say. It seemed a lot closer to what I recognize as Christianity than a lot of the bland stuff I hear from the mainstream, evangelical and pietist churches. And I doubt it would have been excessively shocking to most British Methodists.

Jesus really did mean that the last were going to be first. But this is offensive if you are a "Roman" and think that Christianity is about supporting the Empire.

Steve Hayes said...

The Gospel is indicative, not imperative. How can an imperative be "good news"?

The good news is not "do this" and "don't do that", but rather that someone has already done something that makes a big difference to your life.

PamBG said...

I like that, Steve. Thanks for that thought.