The gospel has taken a bad rap! More often than not, what is proclaimed as gospel is just another challenge to “do better.” Try hard are! Pray longer! Be more committed! Love deeper! Stop sinning! Be good! Be happy! All of these commands come as bad news to people who are trapped by their own guilt-ridden, inadequate lives…
The tragedy is that this “do better” mentality and the lifestyle it spawns is light years removed from the kind of life Jesus demonstrated. Jesus was never the victim of his environment. He chose the course he would take, even the death he would die. He was never bound by bitterness, hatred, lust, fear, or jealousy. He was never anxious about his security nor worried about his position. He never resorted to manipulation or coercion to get his way. He healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, stilled the storms, gave sight to the blind, and loved everybody everywhere. He was known as a friend of sinners. Prostitutes and criminals did not feel condemned in his presence. He could laugh at the comedy in life and cry over the deception that blinded men to life’s beauty. And even when his contemporaries rejected him, Jesus lived with no self-rejection. His intimacy with his heavenly Father was enough. He could even face the devil personally and not fail because he trusted the identity and acceptance his Father had given him. What a life!
Who wouldn’t want the kind of life that was never at the mercy of circumstances and always one step ahead of all foes? But that life is not what people have rejected, of course. They’ve rejected the pitiful substitute bearing the name “religion” – that complex, complicated system of theological dogmas and behavioral requirements the polluted church has offered. It’s erroneously been called gospel… “good news.” And the understandable response has been, “If that’s good news, I’m sunk. No thank you.”
Grace Works, Vine Books, 1992, 9-10.