The Gospel I (Struggle to) Believe

I believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the same God who, in love, created all things. I believe that God created human beings in God’s image. I believe that being made in God’s image means that humans were and are meant to live in relational shalom with God, each other, and all of creation.

I believe that when humans decided to walk a different path, God, in love, did not destroy creation but worked redemptively to preserve it. I believe that one way God did this was to call a particular people to walk in the way God intended all humanity to walk. I believe God delivered Israel from oppression and slavery; God then freely entered into covenant with this people. I believe that when Israel chose a different path, God did not abandon them but continued to speak through prophets, whose messages not only exhorted repentance and return to the one God but also promised that all nations would eventually do the same.

 I believe that when the right time came, God sent one uniquely anointed to proclaim to Israel that God’s kingdom was at hand. I believe that what Jesus meant by “the kingdom of God” was that, just as God had been present in Eden, in the wilderness wanderings, in the tabernacle, and in the temple, God would now be present in Israel in such a way that God’s redemptive intent for all humanity would be revealed—that, in fact, it could be seen uniquely in Jesus’ healings, teaching, and ministry.

I believe that the path Jesus walked was the path God intended for all humanity. But the authorities of Jesus’ day, particularly the Roman authorities oppressing Israel, recognized that path as diametrically opposed to their own and crucified Jesus in an attempt maintain their own systems. I believe that God, as the creator of all things, decisively vindicated Jesus’ path and refuted the path of oppression by raising Jesus from the dead.

I believe that in the light of the resurrection and in the experience of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the eyes and hearts of the early Jewish followers of Jesus were opened such that they saw in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection the working of the one God, the God who created all things, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I believe, with these early followers, that God’s promises of salvation and deliverance were being fulfilled in new and unexpected ways—including the prophetic promise that all nations would feast at God’s banquet. I believe that Jesus’ death atoned for humanity’s sins so that, free from the power of sin and death, humanity would be free to walk in the path God intended.

I believe that God’s promises to Israel have not been negated but that the church, even now in its primarily Gentile form, has been invited to the same task God has always given to God’s people: to proclaim the redemptive intentions of God for creation and to model those intentions by living in shalom with God, each other, and all creation. I believe that the church is empowered to do this by the presence of the Holy Spirit—the presence of the creator God, whose Spirit hovered over the face of the primordial waters.

I believe that the church best proclaims and models God’s redemptive intentions by following the way of Jesus—that is, bringing good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed. I believe that the kingdom of God comes partially through this Spirit-empowered work, but only partially; because, finally,

I believe that God will one day redeem all of creation in a decisive way. I believe that the presence of God in Eden, in the tabernacle, in the temple, in the person of Jesus, and in the indwelling Spirit will be consummated by God’s full, complete presence among us and that the image of God in us will be perfected—that we will be like God because we will see God as God is. I believe that in the new creation, all things will live in the relational shalom for which they were intended.

I believe Revelation 21 points us toward this day: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”