Being challenged about something you take for granted is annoying. You know this is true. You get asked something like, “Why do you always have the same drink order at Starbucks?” or “Why do you love your spouse?” (two questions of an admittedly different scope), and you mumble something about “Because it is what it is, and I just do.” Maybe you add, under your breath of course, “And why do you have to be so annoying, especially before I’ve had that Starbucks caffeine boost?”
Breaking the Bubble
The #LiveFree Thursday prompt today is “Breaking out of my bubble,” and lately on the blog I’ve been pondering what it looks like to break free of the conceptions we labor under when it comes to Jesus and who he really is. Christians protect their Jesus bubble zealously. As if Jesus sits in heaven going “I can’t even” whenever someone slides slightly off the track of orthodoxy. Our orthodoxy, I should add, because it’s generally our Jesus we’re defending, not the real one.
Right alongside popping the bubble of “my Jesus,” though, is the bubble of “my gospel.” What is it? Really?
We assume we know. We’ve listened to Billy Graham. We got the bracelet with the colored beads. We know the Romans Road and can traverse it with the best of them. But think about this. What do you know? What would you say? If you had to answer like a junior high essay – in 100 words or fewer – what would you write? Cut away what you assume and take for granted and answer the question like you’ve never heard it.
Get out of the bubble.
What. Is. The. Gospel?
It’s a question I’ve pondered since seminary days, when I told my theology professor I thought salvation had to be toward something good rather than simply away from something bad. Salvation from hell wasn’t enough; there had to be something we were striving to move into, and not just heaven.
He agreed. My fellow students looked at me funny. It wasn’t the first or last time. I didn’t know I was thinking outside of the box of orthodox evangelicalism. I had no box for reference—I hadn’t grown up in one like most of these guys had. I only knew they looked at me funny, which, if you know me, you know felt a little bit like a badge of honor.
What is the gospel? Really? We need to go back and ask that question from time to time. The Easter season, when we celebrate the power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is a perfect time to ask.
Ask the question again and again until we know we’ve left behind our assumptions and bubbles and easy three-step answers and are left naked with nothing but the Word of God and open ears.
What is the gospel? One hundred words or fewer? Dare we break out of the bubble we’ve made it to be?
I’m giving it a shot.
The Beginning. God created. Everything. He had a plan for perfect balance and a relationship with humans—His image-bearers. We messed it up by trying to be the image itself, not content with the grandness of image-bearing. We wanted to run the show. We forgot we didn’t create it and didn’t know how to run it. (Fyi—We still do this. Daily.)
God sent His image again—Jesus—perfect man and God in one piece. I don’t quite get how either. But he did. Jesus said “I know your lives are broken, and your relationships are broken, and your everything is pretty much broken because that first relationship that all good things come from is broken. I’ll fix it. You didn’t keep your agreement with your Creator, but I’ll keep it for you; I’ll die to keep it. Only I can fix the completely broken.
And when I come back (which is going to be sooner than you think, three days in fact, and it will blow away ALL your assumptions), I’ll start really shaking things up. I’ll start planning for and expecting that the Kingdom God meant to happen here will happen here. Now. And I’ll give you the power to help me make it happen, if you believe me. One more time, God will put his image on the earth. You.
In the end (or just the beginning), it will all come full circle, and you will return to the perfection I created, finally ready to live there, with me. The End.
OK, that was more than 100 words. Still, four paragraphs is not too bad, when you consider my theology book in school was about four inches wide. So 25 words or fewer? How about:
God created. We broke. God loved. He fixed. We love back—we help fix.
Fourteen words. Boom.
It’s not just an exercise in brevity. It’s an exercise in being able to explain to another person, coming from another mindset entirely, what is at the heart of what we believe.
There is no such thing as discipling someone away from hell. It’s like sending a person on a trip by telling them, “I don’t know where you’re going, but I know you’re going away from Chicago.” (Which, as I write this in winter, is kind of like hell. Really.) Who is going on that trip with no idea of an itinerary or a destination? Maybe the reason we’re having such a tough time making disciples is that we focus on what we’re directing them away from and have no real clue what we’re directing them toward.
The bubble has to burst, not simply because it’s easier to carry around a shorter story but because it’s a bubble already collapsing on itself with its wimpy walls and less-then-fulfilling contents. If the air inside the bubble is stale, it won’t float with hope; it will die. So the story of Jesus and us.
The gospel. The whole gospel. The one that shows us how Jesus lived and what he lived for as well as what he died for. The one that assures us that as he healed brokenness and brought purpose in his earthly life, so his resurrection life gives us that same directive.
It’s almost Easter. More and more, the people around us have no idea why we continue to celebrate it. They don’t even know what it means. The average Westerner cannot put together an Easter narrative other than one that involves eggs and giant bunnies. It’s a brave new world. What they desperately want, though, is a story that involves them not merely as sinners in need of salvation but as image-bearers given a purpose and a meaning. They crave a narrative of God that speaks of his desire to create newness more than his need for punishment.
So we must be people who are able to put together that narrative. A compelling one. A complete one.
Not an empty bubble.