I have been thinking about the gospel. The gospel as an event: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and its saving and deifying fruits. The gospel as a response: praise, joy, an ethic of self-denial, of being a “fool for Christ”. Ultimately the gospel as a person; it is Jesus Christ. He is the Actor and Action in our salvation, and He is also our response, our ethic. We respond in Christ. We are sanctified in Christ.
In fact, the response, the very ethic of the gospel is to be Christ; namely to sacrifice, to self-deny, to bear the sins and burdens of others and, most importantly, to love all. This is a personal ethic, yes, but I want to think about it in the context of the community of persons - and there is no way to be a person outside of a community – that is the Church.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (From John 12)
The gospel, then, is a gospel of death. The Church cannot be victorious as the world knows victory, nor can it be successful as the world knows success. (Indeed, one may even argue that when the Church is victorious as the world knows victory it is at that point most precariously close to defeat) The Church is called to be crucified, to be defeated by this world, to bear its sins and to be crushed by their weight.
Of course, this must be a defeat in purity. There is no manifestation of righteousness and no hope of resurrection if the Church dies by its own disobedience. Rather, it must be crucified by the world and for the world so that in its death, life may break forth and bring God’s salvation.
We are told that even Jesus in his humanity had to learn obedience, thus being made a pure sacrifice. Again, the Church must sacrifice itself in obedience, not in rebellion, not in vain sin and selfish ambition. There is a death that leads to life but there is also a death that remains death forever.
But ultimately the Body of Christ exists to die. The Church must forever live the life of its crucified Messiah.