Good News. It’s a phrase in the Christian world that is often linked to Jesus ... as in “This is the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
The transliteration of the Greek from which this phrase comes is “euangelion.” Through the Old English, “euangelion” made it into modern day English as the word “Gospel.” Hence, the Gospel is good news.
The Gospel Jesus lived and preached was about the Kingdom or the Reign of God. It was the Good News for which he was willing to die rather than forsake it. In this Reign there would be equality, justice for all and peace. God’s Kingdom, as Jesus understood it, was not a set of laws. It was a way of living; even more, a way of being. This Kingdom was in opposition to the way of the world that surrounded him which was hallmarked by division, inequality and enmity.
For the followers of Jesus, on the other hand, Good News quickly became about Jesus himself. It became what a person had to believe about the rabbi from Nazareth. It included such things as his birth to a virgin, his ability to perform miracles and his literal ascension into a heaven that is somewhere in the sky.
For Jesus, the Good News had to do with how an individual lived within and as part of a community. It was about our shared life. It was about life the way God created us humans to live – in harmony with one another and with the rest of creation.
For the followers of Jesus, however, over time, the Good News became an individual matter. It was something to which one subscribed, or failed to subscribe. It became dogma, especially centered around the concept that Jesus was “sent” by God to suffer and die for my sins, and without accepting him as my Lord and Savior, I am doomed to eternal punishment. This departed dramatically from the actual message Jesus left his followers.
The Way Jesus knew and taught is not unique to Christianity. It is a Way that lies at the heart of most religions. It is a unifying force for good in our world. By way of contrast, the way of the followers of Jesus who became the church was too often a way of fear-mongering that led to guilt used to control people.
In a day when news and fake news are, well, in the news, perhaps Good News as a “way of being” rather than facts to be promoted or denied will lead us to a better life for all Earth’s citizens.
Leigh Waggoner is priest at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. She can be reached at 565-7865, or firstname.lastname@example.org.