The Gospel as Relationship NOT cognition or statement or theological statement

Easing_relational A long time ago I did some thinking…novel, I know!  Anyway, I started to contemplate what I did to have my lovely and wonderful wife fall in love with me.  I started to wonder what I said, how I looked at the time, the types of things that came out of my mouth that convinced her…was it my cologne?  The fact that I had my hair cut in a certain way?  Maybe I was wearing just that right set of jeans?  Maybe it had to do with the cool frames that were sporting my eyeglasses?  Maybe it had to do with the fact that I had been eating some doublecheeseburgers at McDonalds on a regular basis?  Maybe it was because I had switched from drinking my diet coke out of cans to drinking it out of cups?  I thought, "if I could narrow down that experience to a sort list of action steps that maybe I could package and then make the available to other people…wow, because once I had it narrowed down, it would then be very easy to tell another person (especially some of my single friends) what to say and do that would guarentee a growing and great relationship."  Sounds logical enough, doesn't it?  Unfortunately, you know something that I know – you can't program love…you can't come up with suscinct list of what do say and do that will guarentee anything when it comes to love.  We all know that in our hearts…

Unfortunately, in our addiction to the formulaic and systematic and pragmatic, we have narrowed a relationship with God down to statements that must be adhered to instead of a person to relate to.  We've got it down, don't we?  Whether we call it the "four spiritual laws" or the "Kennedy questions" or "the roadmap to salvation", we actually believe that once a person can go through the steps, that they are guarenteed to be "in" and on their way to a life-long, fullfilling experience with God.  Again…unfortunately, the Gospel is not a message – the Gospel is a person and that person is Jesus.  You see, truth is inherently relational…and becoming a person who follows God has less to do with adhering to a series of statements than it does giving one's life in sacrifice to a mystery. 

Many people promote the presumption that Christianity is a series of ideas that a person must agree with…but I ask you, is that the Gospel?  The Gospel is a relationship, isn’t it?  The Gospel is about a Kingdom with a King (Jesus).  The Gospel is more about relationship than it is about has to be.  In other words, if it were only about ideas and statements, then we have to ask a simple but profound question – would Jesus even be necessary?  The kingdom of God isn’t primarily a what…it is a who.  The gospels don’t teach us about Jesus as principle…but as Jesus the person.  When I look at Jesus it isn’t just truth I am seeing…it is God I am experiencing.  The question for every follower of Jesus is not what am I going to believe but whom am I going to love and follow?  "Being a Christian is more about being in love than it is about baking cookies", that's what Don Miller wrote in Blue like Jazz.  For Jesus – the unique place that God encounters humans is the human heart.  The first Christians didn’t proclaim and creed or statement of faith –
they didn’t demand an assent to a list of facts – they proclaimed Jesus.  I don't think that God ever intended the bible to be strip-mined for
propositions or dissected like a lab experiment – bible is a shoebox
full of relationships…love letters, family scrapbooks,
diaries…the Jesus following life is a sum of relationships with God stories not
an accumulation of verses or the checking off of biblical ordinances.  Have I ranted enough?  Oops, one more thing – great quote from Len Sweet and then I'll leave you to your day!

“But the church has embalmed Jesus in rules, codes, canonicities, and traditions that have everything to do with the church’s saving itself and nothing to do with the church’s saving the world…the reformation paradigm, which tempts us to replace relationship with reason, is captured in the word belief.  It is concerned with the right thinking and adherence to a particular way of articulating biblical teaching.  It involves systematizing and assenting…belief is inert.  It is intellectual, defensible and typically irrelevant…contrast that with a way of life…the life of faith.  This has to do with a quest for discovery…it is a pursuit of God, kinetic, transformational…belief is Plato, faith is Jesus….the difference between an object-based church and a relation-based church is the difference between the church that sells itself vs. a church that brings people into a lifelong relationship with Christ and one another.  A relation-based church is less a place where creeds are dispensed and adherents conscripted than a place where people connect with God and each other and where faith journeys can be encouraged and enabled.” Len Sweet

2 thoughts on “The Gospel as Relationship NOT cognition or statement or theological statement

  1. The gospel is indeed what we believe.
    It is gained through words, according to the scriptures. It is through hearing that the gospel is received and a person believes. “Faith comes by hearing”….
    The gospel is the good news about Jesus. It is what he did for us, not just that we can have a relationship with us. The gospel is more specific than that.
    Many have relationships with Jesus that are adversarial. That relationship doesn’t save them. It is the belief that Jesus died for the forgiveness of their sins, that Jesus is their Lord and Savior, that he is God incarnate- this belief is what saves people. This belief is a gift from God too. Only then are they able to enter into the Kingdom of Christ.
    It is important not to change the gospel, not to water it down. It feels good to say “Jesus is my friend” but it is a far different matter to say that Jesus is my savior and to understand what that means.
    please don’t soft peddle God.


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