Growing up I thought it was a book of the Bible. You know, like the book of Genesis, Mark or Matthew... I thought The Gospel was a book like those. I think it came from my half-listening in church as a child. I grew up going to a Lutheran Church, and each Sunday there were three readings. Two of them were from random passages (or so it seemed) and one was the reading from the Gospel.
The part I missed was at the end of the reading when the Pastor would say which book he was reading from. In the new testament there are four Gospel accounts: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are considered Gospel accounts because all four tell the story of Jesus- his life and his death. In a nutshell, the truth of God sending His only son to earth to die for our sins is the gospel. It is often referred to as the Good News. It is the ultimate redemptive story of something broken (our relationship with God, broken by our sin) restored to what it was originally created to be: A new covenant, where there is nothing in the way of us experiencing true relationship with God.
We love redemption, don't we? Some of the best stories out there are stories of redemption. It's why we all root for the underdog, and why each movie that ends in the guy getting the girl pulls at our heart strings. A story of everything always being wonderful doesn't have the same effect. That's boring. We want to see it go from bad to good. That's the part that makes our hearts swell.
But what happens when we don't want to see what is broken, become new? What happens when we think that it deserves to stay broken?
I read an article yesterday about a women who was just set free after spending 27 years on death row for killing a woman when she was 16 years old. At the time of her sentencing she was the youngest person on death row in the United States. Her biggest advocator? The victim's grandson. He has forgiven her for her actions and has nothing but love and compassion for her. The comments at the bottom of the article, however, don't seem to have the same compassion. They speak of a different plea- a plea for justice. People that have never met the victim or the woman who gave 27 years of her life for her crime; the people that had probably not heard of this crime until the day they read the article. They don't want to hear of the redemption of this woman.
Then I think of my friend who traveled to Cambodia last year. He saw first hand the devastation of the country that was a direct result of a guerrilla warfare group called the Khmer Rouge. They turned the entire country into a prison, and then performed a mass genocide, killing anyone and everyone that threatened their regime. Their chief executioner, Kaing Guek Eav, alias "Duch" (pronounced "Doik") was responsible for well over 10,000 deaths. My friend stood in the killing fields and saw a tree where children were killed by being swung against it. And then he learned of the redemptive story of Duch. How, after years of hiding from authorities he was saved by Jesus Christ and began living a life to serve and honor Him.
What do you do with that? That uncomfortable feeling inside your chest when you hear of someone whom you believe to "deserve" the worst, and now you've learned that they are living a life abundant for the Father? Duch was captured years after his conversion, and currently resides in prison, but he does so for the glory of God- evangelizing and bring others to Christ.
The gospel is offensive. That uncomfortable feeling is your flesh - your selfish human desires crashing against the Kingdom of God. The Gospel tells us that there is nothing too broken to be fixed- better yet, made new. The world tells us something completely different. All I can say is that I am so thankful to serve a God that never gives up on us, and never sees it as too late.
Friends, He loves us all the same. He loves you just as much as He loves a mass murderer. It's offensive, but it is love. Beautiful redeeming love.
Linking up with Imperfect Prose today...
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