September 27, 2023
Weekly Reflection – The Core Gospel
What is the core of the gospel, or core gospel? There is a joke in English language training about getting “the wrong emphasis on the right syllable.” Verbally it is articulated, “…the wrong EmPHAAsis on the right syLABble” (It doesn’t work as well in written form as in spoken.) Verbally, it is a bit like getting your “tang tungled.” That being said, I wonder if much of the Christian world spends too much of its time focused on emphasizing the wrong theological syLAABle. It seems that we too often focus on precision at the expense of the “important” stuff. We attend to what we should do for God with scant attention to what God has done for us. Here’s what I mean. (And, yes, of course, it eventually takes both.)
The Christian gospel teaches that after a miserable beginning in Eden, God has once again extended to mankind a divine right to “eternal life” (John 3:16). God’s promise of eternal life was facilitated by His incarnational coming in the form of Jesus who lived, died, and rose again. This divine right goes beyond any “human rights” that man might devise or promote. It is the “core gospel.” And it is a pretty big bite for any human to chew on. It screams, “Just believe!” The finer points vis-à-vis the “new covenant” and its tie to Abraham can come later.
Belief in this “core” of good news underpins everything the Christian life entails. It and only it generates the responsorial question, “What must I do?” Jesus’ answer to this question is, of course, the two great commandments, i.e., to love God and to love one’s neighbor. How we are to live out these commandments is presented in the New Testament, but only in the context of God’s gift of divine life.
Today, I hear many conversations about how Christians should live. I hear relatively less of a focus on the “core gospel.” The cause of this may be an overly aggressive emphasis on “precision” analyses of the scriptures. For example, we will wear ourselves out debating which of the several credible translations we should be studying when they are ALL clear on the “core gospel.”
It seems to me that God requires no more of us in today’s enlightened world than He did of the earlier believers in the first centuries of the church, who were simply taken by the message that a man named Jesus had risen from the dead. Not having the canonized scriptures, these early believers were less driven to argue the finer points of systematic theology. Actually, they were probably more concerned with facing wild beasts in the arena! But they believed in the “core gospel,” and it sustained them in their persecution and trials.
Perhaps an increased emphasis today on the “core gospel” would facilitate a relaxing of some of our less productive cultural and territorial arguments. God might even smile on such a shift! And it could also sustain those believers who, even today, are being forced to face new forms of persecution. Let’s emphasize the right “syLAABle!”
Blessings and peace,
Disclaimer statement: Please note that the opinions expressed herein are those of the Chaplain alone and are based on his personal understanding of scripture and how God works in our lives.
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