Since my son’s second set of seasons, I’ve sought a scalable summary of the gospel. Something simple enough to be sung by a six-year-old, yet sufficiently sophisticated to stun seminarians for centuries. Here’s my most successful statement so far:
God Loves Us Like Jesus
Simultaneously saying, in short, that the Father loves in the way:
- Jesus loves us
- He loves Jesus
- that makes us more like Jesus
Submitting to that sort of Savior is a sweet smell to our spirit, but a shocking scare to our sin!
This formulation is designed to confront the most common misconceptions I’ve identified in my various attempts to teach, survey, and live out the gospel, by:
- Focusing squarely on our relationship with God as father
- Building on — while challenging! — our understanding of Love
- Emphasizing that the gospel is meant for all of US, not just me
- Recognizing that the goal is Christ-likeness
- Lifting up the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as our model
Even though I grew up in the church, and had the privilege of learning from many of the great Bible teachers of our generation, I still found myself:
- Viewing God the Father as an angry judge
- Frustrated that God didn’t love me according to my self-indulgent definition of love
- Obsessing over my own needs and wants, instead of pouring myself out for others
- Thinking that the goal was conforming to a set of rules
- Refusing to embrace suffering and discipline as the path to glory and joy
Which, when you think about it, are all different facets of the same problem: not wanting to become like Jesus.
I wish someone had told me when I was young that these were the hard truths of the Christian life. That embracing the gospel becomes more sweet — but also more painful — the older I get. Just like it did for Jesus.
But now I know. So now my children will. And that makes it all worthwhile.