By Dick Barrett
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” — Luke 4:18-19 (NIV)
Jesus began his ministry here on earth by reading the words from above, quoting the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1ff). Returning the scroll to the attendant, Jesus then said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The Good News, prophesied hundreds of years earlier by Isaiah, was fulfilled in Jesus’ coming. Then Jesus spent three years teaching and demonstrating what the Good News is all about. The Good News is about God’s reign, here on earth and in heaven. But there is a difference between the two in the time frame in which we find ourselves — the time frame between Jesus’ first coming and his second coming. The difference between God’s reign in heaven and the time when Jesus returns to unite the two is utter, total and complete. God’s reign here on earth today is fitful, partial and mysterious. God’s reign is where we witness such things as reconciliation, justice, wholeness, shalom, and beauty.
Jesus ushered in the Good News of God’s reign, also referred to as the Kingdom of God. After his death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus passed the responsibility of sharing the Good News in both proclamation (words) and demonstration (actions) to his followers. Jesus promised his first followers that the same power he had to proclaim the Good News would come upon them on the day of Pentecost. That same power that came upon Jesus’ first followers on the day of Pentecost is also available to his followers today through the Holy Spirit.
Here in the 21st century the church in America has really taken a hit. Although the church was once seen as one of the foundations of society and culture, such is no longer the case. At best, the church is looked upon by those from the outside with much skepticism. At worst, it is seen as hypocritical, judgmental and irrelevant. Why? Have we lost the sense of being the Good News people? Have we so narrowed the Good News to a set of beliefs, correct doctrine, and proper behavior that we have taken the Good out of the Good News? In doing so have we limited the Holy Spirit and the power of God to transform lives, feed the hungry, heal the sick, release the prisoners and set the oppressed free?
We have spent the past several years talking about being “missional” but what is our primary mission as God’s people today? David Bosch (1929-1992), considered by many to be the seminal missiologist/theologian, said our primary mission as Christians is “to alert everyone to the universal reign of God through Christ.” We alert or proclaim the universal reign of God through Christ in words and actions. We proclaim through evangelism, testimony, witnessing, explaining, and worship. We demonstrate through acts of kindness, healing, conflict resolution, community development, social justice, and peacemaking. We proclaim “our God reigns” and show others what God’s reign looks like, in our relationships with one another, our marriages, how we treat those who are poor, oppressed and imprisoned, and we proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. We live our lives as those who have been poor, blind, imprisoned, or oppressed but set free. We live our entire lives as “the Good News people.”