Whatever Happened to the Good News?
By Linda Michaels
I sat across the table from the one man with whom I knew I could spend the rest of my life. We were in love. But as the saying goes, "Sometimes love just isn't enough."
In this case, the problem was that this wonderful, kind and caring man did not share my Christian beliefs.
"Linda," he said, "What I see in churches is just a bunch of people trying to be perfect, even though they know they can't be."
As the spiritual gap between us became increasingly and painfully clear, I found myself desperately struggling to find words that could somehow bring him across the divide. The problem was, I often found myself agreeing with Ken, more than I disagreed. He had the uncanny ability to bring up the very things that frustrated me about Christianity.
While the church I attend does not, in any way, fit his classification, I had attended many congregations that seemed exactly as he described. I never felt comfortable in those churches, maybe because I've never found it easy to hide my many faults and failures. Thankfully, I've found a church family that embraces me in spite of them.
But I understood what he was saying. His words broke my heart, not only because it meant that our relationship was likely doomed, but because his impression of what it means to believe in Jesus couldn't be farther from the truth.
I've often thought that the words on our Statue of Liberty would be the perfect inscription above a church door. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
The Good News of the Gospel is we are terribly broken and hopelessly flawed creatures, and yet our Savior welcomes us with outstretched arms and accepts us just as we are.
If that's the Good News, how is it that Ken and many others like him are getting a very different message?
I'm reminded of Paul's words to the church at Galatia. "I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? …Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?"
When we surrender our lives to Christ, He does make us better…but as my pastor likes to say, "He makes us better than we were, not better than everyone else."
Recently, I lost sight of that compelling truth.
When a co-worker of mine resigned from her job and left town, she left me with her dog who looks like an overgrown Benji. He is a "kid magnet". So I've had lots of opportunity to share Jesus with my neighbors lately. However, I found myself feeling like I couldn't do that because of the numerous and sometimes obvious imperfections in my life. I just wasn't perfect enough.
As I was struggling with this, my pastor preached a wonderful message. "It's Satan," he said, "not God who puts us up on a tightrope, making us feel like we have to be perfect when we share the Gospel." I could feel my shoulders relax. This wasn't about convincing my neighbors how wonderful I am because I'm a Christian, it was about helping them understand how wonderful Jesus is – so wonderful that someone like me can actually be adopted into His family.
So, Lord help me – help us – to remember that the Good News is not that Jesus died to make us perfect, but that He died to set us free – from our sin, from our pain, and from a life spent not knowing the God who loves imperfect people so perfectly.
Copyright 2015 Linda Michaels . Used by permission.
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