Living the Scandalous Gospel?

So here we are sitting in the Great Hall of the cathedral for our diocesan convention with the theme of living the scandalous gospel.   So what does that mean?  Seems to be some confusion about that.  Older delegates have no idea.  The youth presence has a lot of ideas, some of them quite scandalous.  For something to be scandalous I think it needs to be somewhat embarrassing and generally offensive to a general number of those around. 

One way to do that is the old tried and true method of standing on the street corner, thumping a bible and demanding conversion to Christ.  Many of those who do that are keenly aware of the scandal of their behavior and immensely proud of it.  But even at its best I think it misses the point, partly because it lets too many Christians and would be Christians off the hook.  Having said the Sinner’s Prayer and accepted Christ, what else is there to do?  Heaven awaits so just get on with life as usual.

Living the scandalous gospel in another way brings Christians into contention with life as usual by shinning a bright light on injustice, the plight of those who are excluded, oppressed and in great need.  Christians can easily do that by keeping their eyes on the generalized people in lands far away who are in great distress, and then crying tut-tut while giving a little money for relief before getting on with life as usual.  In too many cases it’s a method for pious avoidance.  A big part of the scandal of the Good News of God in Christ is that Jesus engaged with those at hand whose condition and behavior were an offense, or at least a nuisance, to those in the neighborhood.

So perhaps living the scandalous gospel requires us to truly know about and help as we can the poor and needy throughout the world, but also to truly know and address the issues in our own neighborhoods that create and nourish injustice, exclusion, oppression and great need.  That may very well embarrass us and others and really offend even more.

7 thoughts on “Living the Scandalous Gospel?”

  1. great question here…i know of people in my congregation that when i talked about my hope for youth – that they would live as radicals and prophets shedding Christ\’s light in the dark places of the world – they were a bit uneasy. the idea that the youth pastor wants people to be \”radical\” is hard to communicate. visions of anti-war protesters, hippies, Che Guevara, etc come to mind when we start speaking of being \”radicals.\” that being said, i think the part in your post about caring for the poor and actually living differently according to Christ\’s teachings is the point of radical discipleship…do you think the larger church, especially older evangelicals, are ready for this or willing to listen?

  2. McD,I think it\’s hard for elders to listen to this idea. Apart from whether they are evangelical or not, I keep hearing the phrase, \”but we\’re tired, we don\’t want to do that, that\’s for someone else to do now.\” I think that\’s a pretty lame excuse but it\’s deeply held. That\’s not much of a response is it?CP

  3. great post, thank is one of those days I want to walk away from church type christianity. there is a palpable pain in my soul when I see exclusion and hate as accepted indeed required parts of Christ\’s message. For far too many years christianity has been suffocated to turn out \”good\” citizens or cogs that accept earthly rewards for self now. When I taught confirmation classes I used to get not a few parents who would come in to \”conference\” with me about what I was teaching their children. They would talk about my responsibility for little Bobbies ability to get a good job etc. When I would suggest parts of the Gospel as reasons for the teaching the reply would often be, that doesn\’t make sense in todays world, it wouldn\’t work, and nobody really believes that. I left that church which had a very large and successful mission to feed the hungry in Africa, build wells, schools and set up programs to develop self sufficiency for small villages there, but called the police to remove the homeless and hungry from their grounds here.

  4. Steve,One of the reasons I\’m so interested in Luke 7:36-50 is exactly what I take to be your point about \”the scandalous gospel.\” Scandalous comes from skandhala (or something close to that I don\’t have my books here) which means: a radical stumbling block, that is, one that goes to the roots. When the woman who is a \”city sinner\” invades an (all male) symposium at Simon the Pharisee\’s house, the scandal is just beginning. When she takes on herself the presumption to anoint Jesus\’ feet and then sheds tears on them, lets down her hair in public to dry them, then \”fervently kisses\” them, the sense of scandal expotentially increases. And Jesus welcomes her tears, her hair drying them, her kisses, and finally the touch by which she anoints him. He does that face to face before and in this very particular company that Simon has called together. And of course he does this before his host Simon. He welcomes her in such a way as to make known her faith by way of her acts of love–and does so quite naturally, as if there is nothing more obvious than that all she does and how he responds is itself \”the good news.\” And thereby: the scandalous gospel.Thank you for giving me this phrase to better understand Luke 7:36-50.Tom

  5. G.K. Chesterton, in one of hs many paradoxical quotes, said \”Christianity is not an idea that has been tried and has failed. It is an idea that has not ever been tried.\”

  6. \”scandalous: (of a state of affairs) disgracefully bad typically a result of someone\’s negligence or irresponsibility\” hmmmmm….i ponder as to whether or not much of Christianity is already living a \”scandalous\” (disgracefully bad/negligent/irresponsible) gospel?

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