A great big gospel

Jan 312013

GospelI just read a blog by Krish Kandiah, whose writing and thoughts and initiatives I love. He’s been a big influence on me. The following section from one of his blogs (full blog can be found here) sums up a lot of the things I have been thinking recently, and in part the reason I’ve started my own blog.

When God sent us the gospel, it was not a list of bullet points to memorize, a contract to sign or even a book to read. He sent his fully-fleshed Son to spend 30 years on earth living out the gospel. The magnificence of his incarnation, the radical nature of his teaching, the perfection of his love for those around him and the selfless sacrifice of his death are incredibly difficult to summarize at all. In God’s wisdom there is not one, but four biographical accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, put in the context of 62 other books that span history itself.

The gospel is bigger than we think. We need to offer something more substantial in our seminaries, in our sermons, and in our socializing. We need to revisit how Jesus embodied the gospel and begin to rediscover the gospel as it is presented on every page of our Bibles. We need to rise to the challenge of presenting the age old gospel in fresh new ways for our culture, simply but not simplistically. A gospel that is bigger than we think is good news: we have much to teach and much more to learn.

The gospel is huge! Far big and complex and beautiful to sum up in any words, let alone simple and concise formulas or clever constructions. God couldn’t sum it up in a book. It required a life. It required God Himself. And that is massive! We’ll never have it nailed.

One of the things that Krish hints at is that not only have we made the gospel too small, but also too tame. In our preaching and our churches and our lifestyles, I feel we need to be far more radical – and that will require holistic, enticing theology and huge creativity in living the gospel for all it’s worth. I’m excited and daunted to be trying to think through some of that theology and striving after creative and life-giving ways to follow the creator and the life-giver.

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Jan 312013

Why do I choose the image of limping to describe the walk and the journey I am committing to?

Wrestling with God

The simple answer is that it refers to a story from Genesis (32:22-32) where Jacob physically wrestles all night long with God and leaves the encounter with a limp. I myself have never had such a wrestling match. Not physically anyway.

I do, however, have questions. Many many questions. Some are big and have dominated my thoughts for a number of years, while some are less significant and have only been a recent thing. All of them matter to me to some degree or another. My understanding of God’s revelation to us of Himself in scripture is not one which leads me to think that questions – even doubts – are wrong or that we are asked to leave them at the door. Rather I believe God invites us to bring our doubts and questions with us, and wrestle with them.

I believe God invites us to wrestle with Him.

There are parts of the Bible I do not understand. There are things about churches and Christians I don’t get. The world confuses me. Sometimes these confusions take me to the point of feeling as though there couldn’t possibly be an answer or a reason.

And that’s where the limping comes in.

Because it would be possible – perhaps easy (maybe even easier?) – to win that wrestling match. Not in any real sense. I’m no match for God. But in my theology, my thinking and my walk through life I could choose to say, “I can’t see how that part of the Bible makes sense, so it must not,” or “If God really is good, he would surely do this and since he hasn’t, he can’t be completely good all the time.” These are things I have chosen not to say.

And so, like Jacob leaving with a limp after being touched by God in the hip, I choose to wrestle as I am invited to, but to submit to God’s touch (in my mind, heart, attitudes, choices…) and limp in any area of my life I need to.

This blog is about the wrestling, and the limping.

I said ‘wrestling’, not ‘chess’

I have a tendency, though. I make things academic, abstract, easier to handle because they are a theory not a deep-seated reality. In the past I would speak of wrestling with an issue, but it would be more like playing chess with that issue – very composed, safe and rational.

Jacob didn’t play chess with God, though. He wrestled. It is visceral, just as visceral as Thomas’s desire to put his fingers into Jesus’ wounds. I may not always be weeping over my keyboard as I come to this blog, but I am going to remember that my commitment is to wrestle, to struggle, not artificially but authentically.

If an issue or idea is worth thinking about, it is worth thinking and wrestling with properly. So I will try my very best not to slip into the abstract, the vague, or the intellectual at the expense of the real, the practical and the personal.

And the test should be this: If I’ve managed, I will be limping.

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