What Difference Does the Gospel Make?
What Difference Does the Gospel Make?
A few years ago, I recall staring at the common manger scene that embodied Christmas. My gaze was accompanied by a question that begged for an answer.
“What difference does the gospel make?”
Fast forward a few months from then, it was another hallmark of the Christian faith (Good Friday and Easter). I found myself in a familiar place as my eyes noticed the cross that otherwise disappeared into the backdrop of the church’s sanctuary.
This was during a period in my life when I felt like the very foundation that I was standing on (what I felt so sure of) including my faith was being challenged. It’s not that I was questioning my salvation. There was no doubt that I was a child of God and Jesus was who he said he was (Son of God, the Way and the Life and Truth). But there seemed to be so much chaos, confusion and hopelessness that I began to re-examine what my heart believed.
Since my personal crisis I have continued to wrestle with this question especially as I enter into people’s lives where suffering, loss and tragedy are engraved into their hearts.
What difference does the gospel make to a woman or a man who longs to share life with another in marriage and longs for a home filled with children?
What difference does the gospel make to a marriage marked by perfunctory roles and duties and with little warmth, tenderness, and connection?
What difference does the gospel make to a heart marred more by shame, despair, and contempt than by kindness and gentleness, and love?
In all these circumstances and many more, “What difference does the gospel make?”
I pose this question having hope for an answer but not knowing quite where to start. But trusting that any beginning will draw me closer to a greater clarity to my ponderings, I begin at the bookends of Jesus’ life.
The image I hold surrounding Jesus’ birth is one of calm and peace. But it was far from that.
It was a time of displacement as families left their home to comply with the census ruling. Jesus was born in an ad hoc shelter. Furthermore, his birth aroused King Herod’s jealousy that led to massive killing of infant boys 2years old and under.
From the beginning, Jesus is acquainted with chaos, instability, poverty, death, and suffering. And coming to the end of his life, the journey of the cross is not much different.
Jesus cries out in great anguish and surrender. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Jesus was stripped naked and if he had any clothes on it was perhaps just a loincloth to cover his genitals. He was made a spectacle of shame, humiliation and mockery. With what limited breath Jesus had remaining begs for a response, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27: 46) Yet he is met with silence.
Jesus knows too well profound suffering. He is familiar with chaos, abuse, loneliness, sorrow, loss, emotional and physical pain, etc.
What different does the gospel make – in my life, in yours?
I watched my daughters embrace the first day of school with great enthusiasm. They were reunited with their friends, teachers, and even new school supplies.
When 235pm came around, Sam and I eagerly waited for their arrival. We wanted to partake in their childhood excitement. The first bus came but our arms had no child to embrace. The second bus came. Our hands remained empty, growing in longing to hold a child’s hand. After 30 minutes, third bus came. Our hearts began to ache at the sight of unfamiliar faces.
The confusion of the first day led my daughters to get off at the wrong bus stop. They wandered a neighborhood that resembled ours. They cut through backyards hoping to get home quicker only to be taken further away. I can only imagine the level of anxiety and fear their young hearts had to contain.
A day earlier in church service, Sam gently reminded me to pray for our daughters as they started a new school year. The words from the Lord’s Prayer came to mind, “deliver us from evil.” In another room, Olivia learned the difference between fear and faith.
On the first day of school, the girls woke up as the sun broke through the horizon. They had ample time to get dressed and had a leisurely breakfast. They even spent some time doing their quiet time. Natalie learned that morning about how God is always with us and loves to spend time with us.
What difference does the gospel make?
The gospel gave us courage to retrace their footsteps that were marked with terror and angst.
The gospel gave us hope to send our kids to school the next day not bound by fret.
The gospel gave our daughters faith to remember the presence of God in the midst of unfortunate circumstances.
It’s at the cross where silence, abandonment, injustice, shame and violence are faced that God provides hope, triumph, redemption, comfort and compassion. He even rewrites the once horrible things.
Because of the gospel, we have courage to look death in the face and say, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)
Because of the gospel, we have hope to entrust ourselves to what seems like silence because Jesus entrusted himself by taking his last breath into the silence of God.
Because of the gospel, we have hope to believe what the book of Romans says,
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)