jeff vandersteltAll of us here at The Misfits Theology Club have a different perspective on the gospel/story of Jesus/Christian Preaching (I’ll be using these terms interchangeably throughout the post), whatever you want to call it. And we’re just a microcosm of this thing called the Body Of Christ. It’s important for us to recognize that we do understand the gospel differently, cause the moment we don’t is the moment we make our own perspective and interpretation of the gospel “The Gospel,” it’s the moment we take hold of arrogance and say we have it all figured out. It’s the moment we say, me as an individual sees the gospel as it is and the rest of Christ’s Church has nothing to teach me. And really if we’re honest only the Triune God sees God’s own message without any interpretation or lens. Only God knows and understands the gospel perfectly and Only God Loves the gospel perfectly.
That’s not to say that there’s more than one Gospel and so De-Evolve into relativism, rather it’s an act of humility to admit our human finitude. I affirm there is only one Story Of Jesus, but experience proves that we all have our individual interpretations.
Some of us see the gospel through the lens of Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory, Some See it through the lens of Satisfaction Atonement Theory, and some see it through the Ransom Theory (Christus Victor) of Atonement (my particular opinion). Some of us think the Christian Preaching is more verbal, others that the story of Jesus is more based on action. And some of us, (by “us” I mean all Christians) myself included, understand the Gospel, Christian Preaching, The Story Of Jesus to be made up of both verbal and actional components.
That said I think it’s important that we preach the gospel to ourselves everyday. And each of us must ask what does it mean for me personally to do so and what does it even mean for the whole Body of Christ to do so.
For me I understand the death and resurrection of Jesus through the lens of Christus Victor. I don’t see the problem (the reason we need salvation) being that human beings because of their sin, cannot be in the presence of a holy and righteous God that must punish sin in order to forgive it. God’s solution being that of sending Jesus to take God’s punishment and wrath in order that we may be made right in Gods sight. This is certainly the View Of The Atonement that I grew up being taught both in The Assembly Of God Denomination and in The Southern Baptist Denomination. And this view (Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory is what it’s called) is also held by some of my brothers and sister bloggers. This is their View and I don’t think God is mad at them for it. They are trying to be faithful to God and they see this Atonement Theory as the best way to do that. So don’t be a douche to them if you don’t agree with their Atonement Theory or me for that matter. In general you should avoid being a douche. Especially if you claim to follow Jesus.
That being said I should probably describe my own view of the Atonement (Christus Victor). Because this post is specifically about the Gospel I’ll try not to spend to much talking about the particular Atonement Theory that I interpret the gospel through.
I think Irenaeus (second century church Father) does a good job summarizing Christus Victor when he said,

“for in accomplishing and recapitulating these things in Himself, in order to obtain life for us, ‘the Word of God became flesh’ by the economy of the Virgin, in order to undo death and vivify man, for we were in the prison of sin, <we who have become sinners and fallen under [the power of] death>. Rich in mercy was God the Father: He sent the creative Word, who coming to save us, was in the same place and situation in which we were when we lost life, breaking the bonds of the prison; and His light appeared and dispelled the darkness,<of the prison>, and sanctified our birth and abolished death, loosening the same bonds by which we were trapped.”

As you can see the focus of this Atonement Theory isn’t the need for punishment of sin but the abolishing Of death, and the liberation from the prison of sin which held us captive. In the Ransom/Christus Victor Theory Of Atonement Christ’s death and Resurrection defeat Satan, evil, sin and death thus liberating or ransoming us from all these things that separate us from God.
Now concerning my view of the verbal and actionary components of the Christian Preaching: As with all our Theology Jesus should be our model. What do we see Jesus doing in his efforts to Proclaim the Kingdom Of God? Well he goes around feeding the poor, casting out demons, healing, calling out those in power in both the political and the religious establishments, taking up the cause of the oppressed and marginalized and eating with tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, and Pharisees (which was an act of intimacy acceptance and friendship). His life was one of action and his actions conveyed a message that included but went beyond mere verbal communication. Although the Story Of Jesus necessities a verbal component (story’s always have a verbal component) it is mainly a story not to tell verbally but a story to act out. If all I do is tell people what Jesus did but do not follow his actions I’m not really “sharing” the gospel at all.
What did Jesus say to his followers about the time of judgment. He said to one group blessed are you for when you saw me naked you clothed me, when you saw me in prison you came to visit me, when you saw that I was thirsty you gave me something to drink, and when you saw that I was hungry you gave me something to eat. To this the first group responded, Lord when did we see you hungry and give you something to eat, or naked and clothe you? What did Jesus say, Truly what you did to the least of these you did to me. And to the second group he said, I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me something to drink and I was naked and you did not clothe me. Lord they replied, when we’re you hungry, thirsty, or naked that we did not feed you, give you something to drink or naked that we did not clothe you? Jesus said, what you did not do to the least of these you did not do to me.
Cleary Jesus is concerned with our actions. He doesn’t ask the question, “When did you not verbally share the gospel with these.” His focus was on whether you acted or did not act on behalf towards the least of these. Our actions are always necessary, are words only sometimes necessary. Only when we are not truly sharing the gospel do we make the verbal all that the sharing of the gospel is about. I’ve heard Body language makes up 90% of human communication with only 10% being verbal. If this is the case for communication in general why would we ever think that the sharing of the gospel is an exception to this. Jesus is the way the truth and the life, but this is true not because he has many words but because of his actions. His words are true because they correspond with his actions. As Bonhoeffer said, “Action in accord with Christ does not originate in some ethical principle (emphasis mine), but in the very person of Jesus Christ. This is because everything real is summed up in Christ, who, by definition, is the origin of any and all action that is in accord with reality.” There’s a quote that’s attributed to Francis of Assisi that I think is appropriate for summarizing my view. “Preach the Gospel, when necessary use words.”
So what’s Christian Preaching? The Gospel (Gabe’s Interpretation Of The Verbal Compotent):
Yahweh, The Creator God, out of God’s very being which is Love, created humanity in God’s image. For the purpose of relationship God created us. Humanity however rejected God and gave ourselves to another lover, or rather to other lovers. That of Satan, Evil, Sin, and Death. Once entrapped in the prison of sin and death we were helpless to create our own escape. But the one eternal Love, the triune God who’s name is Yahweh has always desired our reconciliation to God’s-Self and grieved over our pain that we brought unto ourselves. As Love Yahweh has always desired our healing and wholeness. The Triune God launched a plan to rescue humanity. God being a Incarnational God came down and taking on humanity while retaining God’s Divinity, God through the Son became fully human and fully divine. For in order for God to liberate us God had to infiltrate death itself, by way of dying. But God cannot die for God is Eternal. So in order for God to take on the ability to die God took on mortality by way of becoming fully human. The Son Of God, God’s very self, walked among us as one of us. More particularly he walked among us as a First Century Palestinian Jew. While among us he feed the poor, casted out demons, healed, called out those in power in both the political and the religious establishments, took up the cause of the oppressed and marginalized and ate with tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, and Pharisees (which was an act of intimacy acceptance and friendship). He lived as life was meant to be lived, by way of Love. The religious and political leaders killed him by way of a cross. But proving himself to be the Son of God, and proving his way of love to be triumphant he rose from the grave defeating Death, and liberating us from the prison of Satan, Sin and Evil. He prepared his disciples for the arrival of the third person of the Trinity, The Holy Spirit. After this forty day period of preparing his disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God he ascended into heaven. He will come again to judge the living and the dead at the end of all things. And he is presently reconciling all things to himself.
And Finally now I must ask how I can preach the gospel to myself everyday:
I once heard Peter Rollins recount a question that was asked to him, “Do you deny the resurrection?” In response he replied,

Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…..
I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.
However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.

I hope we can all say a hearty Amen to that! And in fact I think I deny the whole story of Jesus when I do not do the things contained in the story of Jesus!
So preaching the gospel to myself is more than just reciting the verbal component, although it will include it, true preaching of the gospel to myself is going down the street and finding someone that needs a friend and befriending them. It’s doing my part in stewarding the earth by recycling. It’s befriending those of minority ethnicities that have historically been oppressed and seeking reconciliation with them. Its promoting unity and reconciliation in the Body of Christ. Its doing little things every day that Bring the Kingdom of God hear in now, living as things should be, in faith, hope, and love, that there will come a day when the Kingdom of Love is fully realized and God has reconciled all things to God’s-Self.