What does it mean to "Tell the Gospel?" Furthermore, what is the Gospel?
John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the World that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
Most Christians I know say that the gospel is summed up in this verse, but I would like to add something else. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This too, for me, is gospel also.
So then, if loving our neighbor is also good news, what then does it mean to "Love our Neighbor?"
Jesus taught that loving our neighbor included not loving just those we like but also people who we did not like, or even those who hated us. It is very tempting to stop here but I want to explore this further. Jesus said a lot of things but he was also an example for how we are to live as Christians. If we only look to what Jesus said and repeat it, I am afraid we have fallen short of what we are called to do when sharing the Gospel. Based on the 4 gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we read of Jesus' interactions with people. More specifically we read about his relationships with those he encountered and those he lived with. The commandment, along with Jesus' example on how to live lead me to believe that loving our neighbor includes interaction that leads to the building of relationships. To tell the Gospel is to interact with people, have conversation and build relationships. I believe so strongly in this that it is the basis on which I do ministry. It is also why I was so thoroughly offended by the actions of a few this past weekend.
This past Friday I went to a Christmas Parade to see an entry in the parade. Just prior to the start of the parade I had been talking to a couple when a young lady came by and gave each of us what looked like money. Upon further reading there was the figure of $1,000,000 and Santa Claus on the bill. On the opposite side, in small print, was a list of sins that could send you to Hell should you commit them. (It really said that) Then in one sentence said how you could avoid Hell; confess your sins before the Lord, ask for forgiveness and declare the Lord as your Savior. Now I imagine you are all wondering how I would be offended by this by the fact that I am a minister and this is in the Bible. That is for another post except to say it was not the content on the paper that offended me.
Not long after that lady came by, about 5 minutes till the parade started a man on the street corner yelled very loudly in an attempt to get peoples attention. I assumed he was associated with the parade as I think most people did, as the crowd drew quiet and began to listen to the man. Very quickly, it became apparent he was not but was what I used to call, a Street Preacher. Very quickly people went back to the conversation including the couple and I that I had been conversing with.
I want to say very clearly that while I do not know these two people I encountered on Friday night, I do not hold any ill feelings towards them but their actions were hurtful to me and I will now explain why. Keep in mind that I believe that when we tell the Gospel relationship is a part of it.
The woman who, as quick as she gave the paper bill to me, left without having a conversation neither did the man. He stood on a street corner with an audience that was not going to leave because they were there to see the parade that would start in less than 5 minutes. He took advantage of the situation and talked at/to us and never had a conversation with us. What offends me about this is that neither of these people, in their attempt to tell the Gospel, learned anything about me. They don't know that at the age of 6 I heard the voice of God calling me to salvation. That at the age of 7 I followed Jesus' example and was baptized. They don't know that I heard the call to full time Christian Ministry and that I followed it to Ordination to the gospel ministry. And because they don't know any of these things about me, I don't know anything about them either. When it comes to sharing the Gospel that makes me sad as a minister. All the blessings that have come from God have come through the relatiosnhips that I have with people in which we share our lives with one another. If we are to truly bless the world we live in with the Good News of Jesus Christ we must be intentional about building relationships. Anything less and we all lose out. They missed out on getting to know me and I missed out on getting to know them as well.
One last note:
In the greek the word euangelion means "good news". How is it good news to tell people everything that will cause them to perish rather than what has been done for them so that they can know the grace, love and salvation of Jesus?