Thursday, October 31, 2013

Good News in Perspective

I was reading through this great book recently - One in Christ - you might have heard of it. One of the chapters recounts the biblical story of Cornelius from Acts 10. Cornelius is a soldier in the Roman Army - representative of the invading, occupying force. He was also a God-fearer. Jews made some concessions of hospitality to those non-Jews who lived devout lives, but in the end, Cornelius could never be fully incorporated into God's people. Despite his actions and his convictions, there was little, if any, hope for Cornelius to ever be "in."

Having grown up in the Church, trained at seminary, and working as a pastor, I've got a real insider perspective on things. I see the faults of the Church far more often and easily than I see the benefits - I take the benefits for granted.

This treatment of Cornelius helped me recover the radical Good News of the gospel. Gospel literally means Good News - and what Paul has to say to Cornelius is life changing, fog-dissolving, depression suppressing news. This guy who could never, ever be "in," could, in Christ, be "in." And not just as a convert or a latecomer, a step-child, but accepted and included as a full member in God's people with as much right and privilege as anyone else.

That is radically good news.

I often lose the reality of that gospel in the very real criticism that "Christians just want to tell me what to do," because, let's face it, we do. A lot. We're infatuated with telling people what to do, especially people who've never even asked for advice.

I wonder if the "insiders" forget what it's like to be outside, feel out of place, unloved, lost, or alone. That probably means we're spending too much time with insiders.

I tend to cringe when people talk about Jesus - not because I have any problem with Jesus, of course I don't. I suppose I've just seen the Church get it wrong more than we get it right. I often assume the worst because very rarely do the words we say sound like good news.

Perhaps we get caught up in trying to explain something that can only be experienced. People have lived through too many empty "I love yous" to put much stalk in even earnest talk.

Peter had to travel a distance to get to Cornelius. He had to walk into the home of a Roman soldier, a non-Jew. He ate and talked and laughed with his family. The good news was only good news because it was consistent with experience.

Perhaps we just do away with this insider-outsider nonsense and just love people like they're worth loving - just because they're people.

I suspect being loved without condition is exceptionally good news.

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