An interesting feature of our modern society is that journalistic curiosity known as the ‘breaking news’. This refers to news events that are currently developing or “breaking”, a freshly occurring story that is considered significant enough to warrant immediate attention. Often, an ongoing programme or report is interrupted to allow for this urgent announcement or incident. And the breaking news typically comes with regular updates (and sometimes corrections) which are broadcast to the watching or listening audience.
While the name is modern, the idea really isn’t.
When Christ began his ministry, he went to his hometown of Nazareth and entered the synagogue to participate in the worship. He was given the scriptures to read and he opened to a startling passage from the prophet Isaiah.
These were his words:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
He ended his reading by announcing to the congregation that he had come to fulfill that prophecy.
In other words, Jesus was announcing himself as the promised Messiah, the one who would come to liberate God’s people from their enemies and usher in God’s rule. He was announcing the gospel.
The gospel is breaking news. It is a message of an unfolding reality that grips us by the collar of our hearts and demands we pay attention. It compels our attention because its content affects our destiny; its theme goes right to the foundation of our existence and asks us to make a decision for life or for death.
Unlike many other news stories, the gospel is a finished story. We know where it all ends. The Book of Revelation gives us a dazzling picture of calm, glory, and happiness in a new heaven and earth:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more…
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1,3-4)
The goal of God’s redemptive work is a transformed universe where evil and pain have ceased to exist. It is a reality where everything is forever changed and renewed, exactly as God intended his world to be.
But like all breaking news, it is an event whose implications are still being felt as it spreads around the nations. The gospel announces that God has come into the world to restore it to its original glory. And as people embrace this unique story, it leads to new ways of living, working, and relating. In fact, many spheres of life are yet to feel its influence.
Imagine what kinds of businesses we would have if its idea of sacrifice and service truly permeated corporate culture?
Imagine how the theme of self-denying love can alter the celebrity lifestyle which heavily shapes modern youth culture?
How about our art forms? A renewed appreciation for the dignity of the natural world shaped Western art from the sixteenth century onwards. Consider how the gospel’s realistic picture of the human condition can influence the stories we tell or the paintings we sketch?
Many African societies and organizations are promoting the development of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. But beyond the economic value and potential of these disciplines, the Christian doctrine of the goodness of creation provides a richer basis for studying these knowledge areas. And what is the gospel but a recovery of God’s grand design for creation.
The gospel is more than a matter of mere curiosity or a momentary news headline on CNN or Channels. It is the story of God’s intervention in creation for the good of all creation. It answers our age-old questions of who we are, how to live and what we are meant to do. And we are wise to turn up the volume and listen.