The Gospel (The Good News) of Jesus Christ tell us…
(Part 1) We are more sinful and weak than we ever cared to admit
(Part 2) We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope.
So I find myself writing this on the Eve of Christmas Eve. I do not fully understand why this has been in my thoughts recently.
As I have lived my life I have noticed that many people understand sin. Also, many people understand how high, deep, and wide Gods love is for us (Ephesians 2). Many churches, religious institutions, and groups of people quite often have a “lens” in which they interpret scripture that are either more centric of part 1 or more centric on part 2 of the Gospel message. However, the stories of scripture often reflect a much more complex and dynamic truth than than either just part 1 or just part 2 of the Gospel alone could ever describe, Some of the theologians in todays world that may be labelled as “new age” or “emergent” are often in love with love as their primary lens of interpreting scripture. Other people or churches are legalistic or black and white , pointing out the sins of other people and how bad and ungodly that sin might be.
In the Gospel definition above there is an ampersand! We are both loved and sinful. This gives rise to very complex truths such as in MY weaknesses (and sin) I see the power of God in the gospel — that he would come to me while still a sinner. It is the ampersand that makes the gospel electrifying!
Many people understand the truth of part 1 of the gospel and many people understand the truth of part 2 of the gospel. It appears to me that as people relate to other groups slightly different, often with different sins — that it is much more difficult to embrace the ampersand in the Gospel. I call this living with a gospel gap in our faith. This gospel gap basically means we have not come to grips with the ampersand of the gospel message.
There are a lot of good ampersand examples in scripture. My favorite is the example of King David. King David in what I call “Bathsheba Gate” had an affair with Bathsheba and plotted and killed her husband but was also called a man after Gods own heart. He was used mightily to advance Gods kingdom. KIng David was an adulterer and (&) a man after Gods own heart!
My wife and I facilitate Marriage Rebuilders, a ministry for broken and struggling marriages. Quite often a spouse might say how can he/she love me but also he/she have an affair. Learning to understand that we can love another person and(&) be pretty messed up is a difficult but necessary step a person must take in recovery of a broken relationship. Learning to understand the ampersand of truth allow the couple to start talking about difficult topics without engaging in black and white thinking. In other words the ampersand of truth allowed the couple to start talking honestly about their issues. This honesty and transparency, if returned with honesty and transparency is the first step to regaining intimacy in Marriage.
If we embrace part 1 of the gospel (sin) more than love we have no choice but to live with a legalistic system of thought. When people cross certain boundaries we have no choice but to look down on them. Quite often we throw out critical and hurtful labels. Often we simplistically (and carelessly) caricaturize other groups of sinners. At the extremes of this kind of thinking you may have religious bullying. These people may have a network of broken relationships because they can not live as sinners who live with other sinners whose sin is different from theirs. Changes and growth are centered around trying harder and being more spiritual and more accountable. Gods grace and love have lost its electrifying nature and instead we engage in stoic religious processes to try to grow.
If you embrace part 2 (love) more than the fact that we are sinners you don’t see how electrifying Gods grace can be. You see no reason to change and grow because Gods love does not challenge sin.
Living with a gospel gap (neglecting the ampersand of our faith) makes real honesty, change, and growth impossible. We might be able to grow intellectually but personal, emotional, and psychological growth are not possible.
Think about the “ampersand moments” of your life. The ampersand moments in life are hard… but they are important opportunities to grow and to learn self honesty. Are there some ampersand moments in your life that you could share with someone else? Could this “ampersand story” be a blessing to them? Finally, the ultimate ampersand is shown to us through the Gospel message that Jesus came us while we were still sinners! Today, lets fully embrace the Gospel! Hallelujah!