Does the Gospel hurt us? Is that its intent? In order to answer that, we need to understand what the message of the good news is.
What is the Gospel Message?
John 3:16 – 17 sums up the whole of the gospel. That passage starts, “For God so loved…” That shows the message of the Gospel begins with God’s love. God’s love is the foundation on which the good news is built; personified in Christ, realized at the cross, and magnified in His resurrection. The first reality we must grasp is that any attempt to separate or minimize the Gospel from this truth causes it to cease being the Gospel that God, Himself, delivered to us. A gospel message initiated by anything other than love, is not good news.
If then, God’s love initiates and substantiates the Gospel, what should we understand about the intent of it with regard to the possibility of it hurting us? Because God’s message of reconciliation to us focuses on His love for us, the only acceptable response to it is love. Jesus punctuates this idea by declaring the greatest command and attaching to it the second command, which He describes as “like it.” And if loving our neighbor is like loving God, isn’t it likely that the tangible expression of our love for God is played out in the love we show for our neighbor? Not only are these the two most important commands, Jesus says that this love thing encompasses the entirety of the law and the prophets.
Love and Our Neighbor
So, does the love we show our neighbor hurt them? Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” So no, our love does not hurt our neighbor. And, if our love of God and our neighbor is a mirror response to the love that God initiated His good news with, shouldn’t it be that His love does not hurt us?
1 Cor 13 explains this clearly. It tells us, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Love does not create an environment where hurt can exist. If then the Gospel message is wrapped up in God’s love for humanity, it cannot hurt humanity.
The Offensiveness of the Gospel
But what of the offensiveness of the Gospel. This offensiveness is wrapped up in the fact that the love of the Gospel message always moves toward the truth of true righteousness. And, true righteousness comes against our human idea of righteousness. Man’s sense of righteousness always focuses on self. The Gospel means to undo that view by focusing righteousness toward God and others, through love. This may be offensive to our sense of righteousness, but is still separate from the good news of the message.
It is also offensive because it seeks to separate you from the sin you so desperately want to hold to. It calls you out of what offends God and into His view of righteousness, which again causes offense to your “sensibility.” But still, these are responses to the Gospel and not the Gospel itself. Likewise, any other feelings you have about the Gospel or any reaction to the Gospel is not the Gospel. And, while conviction initiates from the Holy Spirit, as a result of the hearing the truth of the Gospel, and may even cause us pain, that again is simply a feeling caused by the Gospel and not actually the Gospel.
Two Men, One Message
Consider this. Two men of similar circumstance receive the same Gospel message. One man, being far less emotional, receives the message as logical and surrenders himself to God. For him it the most rational decision he could make. The other man, receives the Gospel message and is completely undone by it. He resists it and struggles with what accepting that truth will require of him. It causes him agony and he likely experiences pain. He reluctantly surrenders himself to God. In either situation, was the message the same? Yes. Did it intend to hurt either man? No. But one was hurt and one was not. Why? Was it because of the message or the man’s view of it?
The Gospel is not a product of your feelings, it’s a product of God’s love. And love does no wrong.