Offensive – adjective
causing someone to feel deeply hurt, upset, or angry.
Glorious – adjective
having a striking beauty or splendor that evokes feelings of delighted admiration.
It may strike you as odd that I say both of these descriptors are accurate of the gospel of Jesus. In light of my ever growing desire to write briefly (so that I actually publish) I will lay out a few reasons for this claim.
The word gospel (Greek, noun – εὐαγγέλιον) means good news, and we call the Christian message “The Gospel” because it contains the very greatest news possible, for all people. But in order for something to be good news, generally speaking, it must be predicated by bad news. What is the bad news that comes before the good?
The bad news is that God is very very very very very very good. Perfectly good. And you’re not. The chasm between your goodness and his goodness is infinite. And because of his goodness he cannot tolerate anything less good. And not only are we lacking good, we are swimmingly evil (odd pairing of words!). And, according to God, nothing we ever do will be good enough to compensate for this wide divide between us. You cannot change yourself. You cannot save yourself. You cannot earn “heaven”. These are all impossibilities which coincide with God calling you dead, rebellious, and rejected. That’s kind of harsh from my perspective. But that’s also kind of the point. As you read that paragraph a knot should begin to form somewhere in your abdomen. In other words, a two ton rock is roped to your feet and the word on the street is you aren’t a very good swimmer. This is offensive to most people. This is the great “offense” of the gospel. People demand a version of God that doesn’t exist – the version that overlooks their lack of goodness. And people likewise command a version of themselves that doesn’t exist – the version worthy of pardon.
And then there’s the glorious. The “gospel” is that reason Jesus came to earth to do what he did was to make a way for his goodness to be considered your own, if you are “in him”, which is a very Hebrew way of saying you are in a particular relationship with him. Jesus came to do what only he could do, which was live a good life, pleasing to God, worthy of closing the chasm and thrusting us back into closeness with God, the way we were meant to be. All this done by a poor Jewish fisherman, who never fought or argued his case, elevated himself, or made claim to his rights. This Jesus was amazing, and his goodness is a free gift from God. The only stipulation is that… well, there are none. Hence, glorious.
And yet, the offensive is not quite over. Because Jesus didn’t come and do a bunch of stuff and kinda go “okay, phew, that’s done. You’re welcome!”. It was more like this, “You’re all in serious trouble unless you look to me as your only source of hope. Every other God is false. Every other prophet is a liar. Every other way to God is bankrupt. It’s me and me alone. And if you look to me, you will know know me and be known by me.”
Make sense? I hope it does, because I’m at 534 words, which is ~200 too many.