The Gospel Truth


Sometimes, the scenario runs like this:

You have God and Jesus and the Undeserving Masses

and Satan, of course.

Then, there are the angels, the apostles, and the Holy Spirit

to complete the scene.

God is outrageously angry with the Masses

for all the wrongs they have done

(Never mind foreknowledge and omniscience

which should have tipped God off

as to the likelihood of the turn out,

and don’t waste your time wondering

what’s God got to be angry about,

knowing all along what was coming,

or why we let God get by with it

without saying he shot himself in the foot,

and brought it all on his own self–

which is what we would say about ourselves

if the shoe, so to speak, were on that foot).

But, not to worry.

Jesus is quick to thrust himself between God’s fury and the Milling Horde

just in time to prevent their everlasting destruction.

“No! Take me!” he shouts,

giving himself up for the sins of us all.


And, sometimes it plays out like this:

God is dressed in a business suit,

like a high ranking government official,

maybe the head of the IRS,

wishing that things could be different,

and sorry that it has come to this,

but the Law is the Law, after all, you know,

and penalties must be imposed,

or what would people say?

But, Jesus steps forward,

in a corporate kind of way,

with a compromise proposal,

presented formally and with style,

suggesting that something might be worked out,

if the system could be satisfied

with one pure death in place

of the tarnished payment

of so many sordid lives.


Then, sometimes, it goes like this:

God is anguished and torn,

the helpless victim of inner conflict,

pacing the floor,

trapped between

the mutually exclusive requirements

of Justice and Love.

Preoccupied and distraught,

God mumbles,

“My Justice Side says, ‘Kill them all!’,

and, surely, they deserve it,

but my Love Side says, ‘Don’t be like them!

You’re bigger than that!

Grant them full pardon!

Let them know who you are!’”

At the very moment God is about to collapse

beneath the weight of the un-choose-able choice,

Jesus knocks politely and enters to say,

“I have a plan that will satisfy your Justice

and express plainly your Love.”


No matter how the opening scene is depicted,

in Act II, the disciples come forward

to declare to the people

the great miracle of their deliverance

which lays dormant and un-actualized

until they hear what has been done

and believe it is so.

Believing is the activating agent

making The Deal operative

in the lives of the people,

getting them off the hook

and out of harm’s way–

and it doesn’t matter what Jesus has done

if they don’t believe he did it,

which, if you think about it,

changes absolutely nothing in the

deal God has made with the people:

The people still have to please God

by doing what it takes to be pleasing,

i.e., believing with all their heart

that Jesus is their Lord and Savior.

The burden remains on the people.

But they don’t tell it this way in Sunday Schools

or in the sermons.

The people aren’t delivered

until they believe they are,

and Satan can still win

by keeping them in the dark,

and hiding them from the truth,

sending Deceivers to distort

the disciples’ message

so that the people think the wrong things

and miss their chance.

And, the angels all stand on tip toe,

jostling for viewing portals,

holding their breath,

wringing their wings,

crossing their fingers,

shutting their eyes,

afraid to look,

while the Holy Spirit

strives to work mystic wonders

to break Satan’s spell

and save the whole show,

or the predestined portion of it

(this part is somewhat murky,

even in the ancient manuscripts),

before it’s too late and it’s all over

because time is running out,

even though there is eternity to play with

and what could the hurry possibly be?


Well, that’s the gospel truth

which has been passed down from the apostles,

systematized by the theologians,

and preached by the preachers,

in one version or another

through long centuries of making things perfectly clear.

Yet, no matter how often

we hear it presented,

or see it enacted

in manger scenes

and Lenten Services,

we cannot ignore the obvious,

or avoid the inescapable conclusion,

that it has all the earmarks of an early draft

of a Rube Goldberg cartoon,

and realize that someone with all eternity to work with

could surely have come up with something better.

Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

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