Here are two wonderful presentations of, ‘A Beautiful Gospel’!
Brian Zahnd and Brad Jersak both show through this simple approach/telling, how we Christians have too often made the ‘Good News’ not so good..but then they show/tell it as it is..the greatest news of all! A Beautiful Gospel indeed!
It is often in our absence that the Spirit of God manifests itself. When Jesus left his disciples he said: “It is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Paraclete [the Spirit] will not come to you. However, when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth” (John 16: 7;13). It was only in Jesus’ absence that his friends discovered the full meaning of his presence. It was only in his absence that they completely understood his words and experienced full communion with him; and it was only in his absence that they could gather in a community of faith, hope, and love.
When we claim for ourselves that we come to our friends in the Name of Jesus – that through us Jesus becomes present to them – we can trust that our leaving will also bring them the Spirit of Jesus. Thus, not only our presence but also our absence becomes a gift to others.
Every religion of the earth places burdens or expectations on mankind that, try as he might, overwhelms him. Each religion demands certain forms of “good” to be done in order to achieve some form of salvation or heaven. Often, the “good” reduces to strange rituals or great sacrifice. After the rituals and sacrifice, the person remains no better or better off than before.
Modern complaints about the missionaries changing native Hawaiians away from their native religions ignore the whole story. On a boat tour of one Hawaiian harbor, the guide pointed out a fine home on a coveted shore and identified it as the home of a grandson of a missionary. His hostile comment followed: “As you can see, they came to do good and did well.” I have no idea what brought about the prosperity of this grandson, (No such hostile comment would be made about a politician or a criminal.) but the guide totally avoided the real story.
On another trip, my wife and I were part of a group being guided through a state park in Hawaii. The guide, a young woman, constantly threw barbs at Christians for how they had changed the customs of the Islands. As she told the story of Old Hawaiian kings being buried in a secret place by his closest associate who would return to the village and make a sacrifice, I could no longer hold back.
I asked, “What kind of sacrifice would he make?”
Her answer: “A significant sacrifice.”
“OK,” I pursued, “Just how significant a sacrifice?”
“Well, a human sacrifice,” she admitted.
I pressed further: “What kind of human sacrifice?”
Again, she was forced to admit something she never normally told those she guided, “The one who buried the king would return and kill all his friends and family.”
That was all I needed. “Do you realize that this human sacrifice would continue were it not for the missionaries? Do you realize that you might have been killed by now even as a young lady? Do you also realize that in their culture, you, as a woman, would never be permitted to guide such a group as ours today? Be thankful the missionaries came. Be thankful.” Speechless now, she only nodded reluctant agreement toward the truth.
What a price people pay when they follow some path other than Jesus himself. On a recent trip to Nepal, I discovered a most interesting revelation about Buddhism. Buddhists of today, though they revere Buddha and build multitudes of statues of him, have thoroughly rejected his teachings even using almost obscene words to describe his way compared to modern Buddhism with its “sacred use of sex and drugs.” So long denial, hello flesh!
The wonder of following Jesus is that more is demanded of us than of any other system, yet we are the only ones whose leader occupies us and actually meets the unmeetable requirements in us. Any other teaching is a reduction of the words of Jesus.
Heaven on Earth
The promise of finding our lives carries a greater message than we usually understand. This is the promise of achieving what all people seek. Everyone wants to improve his life, to “find” some place of satisfaction, some happiness, some rest. An English poet named Pope described the human situation: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast. Man never is, but always to be, blessed.”
The constant hunt for “life” goes on. Even the founders of the USA recognized the reach was beyond our grasp when they declared that we all have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They knew happiness was only a pursuit.
However, he who made us knows how we work. Whenever you take a car or truck to a mechanic to have him tune it up, you want to make sure that they have a manufacturer’s manual so they will have the right specifications. If he looks at your car and says, “Wow, I have never seen one of these before. Just leave it here and I will play with it,” you would be out of there as fast as possible.
To our great benefit, he who made us, our manufacturer, wrote a manufacturer’s manual, the Bible, so we would have the specifications to truly run right, to “find our lives.” We were not designed by the creator for selfishness, for wickedness, but, instead, for servanthood and holiness. Any other use than servanthood is like sand in place of oil in the engine-we are destined for destruction and run poorly and temporarily in the meantime.
Jesus came, not to mess up our lives as the park guide in Hawaii wanted us to believe, but to give us life and more of it than we ever imagined. The problem to the natural me is that the only way to achieve that life (and joy and happiness) is through giving to others. The benefit of the deal is that as I give I achieve more of life as a simple fringe benefit.
Years ago, I happened upon a journal which reported the results of a study of happiness. Now, happiness is hard to study. You cannot quantify it-put numbers on it. You cannot say, “I would like a pound of happiness please,” or, “Could I have $5 worth of happiness?” A group of psychologists studied happiness in a way I thought was very clever. They interviewed a large number of people and asked them if they knew anyone who was happy. If they said, “Yes,” they would ask additional questions, some standardized and others to free them to describe. When they had a statistically significant number, they began to tabulate the data and discovered that one trait seemed to be true of all happy people-they were “constantly doing benevolent things for other people.”
I could have saved them a lot of time and trouble with the words of Jesus, “If you want to find your life, lose it for my sake.” This is what the kingdom, the church, the life is all about. This is the foundation, the stone that keeps us unmovable. Anything else is sand.