I have recently heard a lot of concerns about young people becoming increasingly involved in social justice issues and are not able to articulate or preach “the Gospel.”
I wonder what kind of Gospel they can not articulate. Often it is merely substitutionary atonement, appeasing the wrath of God etc. as what is meant by the Gospel. I say, why not chop off the first 75% of the four Gospels? Aren’t we forgetting something? What about the incarnation? Jesus life and teachings? And the climax is the resurrection not the cross. Now I’m preaching the whole Gospel!
The Gospel often described is merely a transaction within the Godhead that we pay mental ascent to so we can get our pie in the sky bye and bye. No wonder young people are rejecting this message! No wonder we have problems in evangelical churches. It’s because we are all there for selfish reasons – so we can have some pie when we die. This is a gospel of individualism and hedonism that has absolutely no relevance for the brokenness and hurt our world is experiencing every day. Young people care about the world, about hurting people about the degradation of creation, about broken relationships, etc. Good news for the world would speak to this. And The Gospel does!
I don’t have 4 laws or 3 steps but a key text for me that explains the Gospel story in a nutshell is Colossians 1:15-20, presented here in part with a few annotations.
Jesus is the image of the invisible God [It begins with the incarnation, the enfleshment of the divine. It is a real physical historical every-day Gospel not a spiritual transaction with no historical bodily relevance. We continue to incarnate the Gospel as we follow Christ in life.] For in him and through him and for him all things were created. He is before all things and in him all things hold together. Jesus is the head of his body, the church; the firstborn from the dead [resurrection] so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [incarnation], and through him to reconcile to himself ALL things [that includes all people and all creation and all principalities and powers. It also includes the reconciliation of people to each other and people with creation if we consider Romans 8 and Ephesians 2], by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. [It was not so much to make peace within the Godhead since God was not fighting with Godself.] “This is the Gospel,” as Paul says in v.23
The Gospel is surely about peace with God and self but the whole Gospel is also about peace between people and nations, indeed so that all creation will live in SHALOM. Working for social justice, caring for creation, and much more is all about living and preaching The Gospel. That is the Old Testament vision which Jesus came to fulfill and we are invited to participate in. Now that is Good News! I could go on but check out my sermon on Luke 4 in my sermons file for more on a similar theme.