What is so good about the Good News?¶
Christianity is a religion based on what we call the Good News or the Gospel (in the original meaning of this word, see About the word “Gospel” for other meanings).
This Gospel is neither a teaching nor an advice nor a commandment, but a news, an announcement. It doesn’t say “You must do this in order to go to heaven”, it says “Heaven is already now and here, you are already in heaven because something has been done for you”. The something that has been done for us is the life of Jesus Christ on Earth, which triggered an irreversible fundamental change in our way of understanding God.
But how to summarize this news, this announcement? What is the content of that message? The Gospel, in three sentences, if you ask me, is this:
God does not punish your sins, he does not make you pay your debts.He forgives your mistakes, weaknesses and failures.He loves you unconditionally and will never let you down.
But of course there is more to say about it.
More about the Gospel¶
The Gospel has important and fundamental consequences at theological, political, social and psychological level. It causes a fundamental change in my thinking and my way of understanding the world. It sheds a new light on the way we live together.
The Gospel is universal: it is not only for a particular nation or class of humans, it is for every nation and for every single human. Jesus told his disciples to explain the Gospel to every human, to every people, to every culture, not only to their own people. Psalm 98 calls us to “sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!”.
Jesus Christ, through his death and resurrection, has redeemed us forever from the idea that humans will have to pay for their debts or get punished for their sins after their death (see About atonement).
The Gospel says that the Kingdom of God is already now and here.
The Gospel encourages us to not follow human laws and teachings that appear to promote the opposite of what God intended. It calls us to civil disobedience where needed.
What the Gospel is not¶
The Gospel is not a political message. Jesus has no problem with big contrast between rich and poor (Luke 17:5-10), neither with the dictator-like Roman emperor (Mt 22:15-22) nor with the fact that Romans occupied the Jewish territory and forced Jews to join their army (Mt 5:41).
The Gospel does not ask us to live in traditional families or to protect this way of living within our societies.
The Gospel does not ask us to protect unborn children from abortion. It asks us to not kill other humans, but the question when an embryo starts to be a human being remains controversial also among Christians.
The Gospel does not say “If you don’t want to burn in hell forever, repeat this prayer and believe that Jesus died on the cross for sins, rose from the dead and is coming back to destroy sinners and rescue the Christians.”1 See About saviorism.
The Gospel does not say “Here is how to get to Heaven”, but “The Kingdom of God is already here, it has come to you via Jesus Christ” 2
The Church and the Gospel¶
Excerpt of a speech held by pope Francis in October 2015 in his conclusion to the synod on the family:
The Synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness. This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae – they are necessary – or from the importance of laws and divine commandments, but rather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy (cf. Rom 3:21-30; Ps 129; Lk 11:47-54). It does have to do with overcoming the recurring temptations of the elder brother (cf. Lk 15:25-32) and the jealous labourers (cf. Mt 20:1-16). Indeed, it means upholding all the more the laws and commandments which were made for man and not vice versa (cf. Mk 2:27).
My summary of this paragraph:
Humans are more important than ideas
The spirit of the Gospel is more important than the letter
Explaining God’s love and forgiveness is more important than maintaining formulae
Christians must overcome the recurring temptations of the elder brother (cf. Lk 15:25-32) and the jealous labourers (cf. Mt 20:1-16).
Realizing that the laws and commandments were made for man and not vice versa (cf. Mk 2:27) encourages us all the more to uphold them.
Keith Giles in Exposing The False Gospel Of Evangelicalism
Tim Keller says (in The Gospel-Shaped Life): The Gospel is news, not advice. Advice is counsel that you get to help you get something accomplished. News is a report that something has been accomplished for you, it’s already happened in history, and you must response to it. Essentially all religions besides Christianity (and to a great degree a big part of Christianity is formulated this way, though it shouldn’t be) are all advice. Christianity is news, Gospel, Good News. Every other religion was founded by somebody, by a prophet or a sage or a figure, who came and said “Here is the way to find God”. Only Christianity was founded by a man who said “I am God coming to find you”.