It is my observation that many middle-class American Christians think, subconsciously, that the gospel is “nice” and “pretty.” We sing songs about the love of God, we have decorative art pieces in our kitchens and offices, and we Like and Retweet short statements celebrating how awesome God is.
As C.S. Lewis might say, all well and good. But the gospel is not “nice.” It is not “pretty.”
The gospel is scandalous. It says that the most corrupt, cruel, self-centered human being can be washed clean and stand before the throne of Almighty God.
The gospel is also terrifying, because it says that you and I are corrupt, cruel, and self-centered, unworthy to stand before a holy God, except for the blood of Jesus that washes us clean.
The gospel is not nice or pretty because we are not nice or pretty. We are broken, messy, fallen creatures, and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. We are in a hole so deep we can no longer see the light of day.
But the grace of God is greater. The grace of God, in the form of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, the Word made flesh, has come down into our low estate, redeemed us, washed us clean with His own blood, and made us worthy to stand before the throne of God.
It is difficult, sometimes, to recognize the depth of one’s own depravity when one has a comfortable middle-class lifestyle, with clean running water, a paycheck every other Friday, and the police a quick phone call away should you hear a weird noise in the alley at two in the morning.
It is difficult, sometimes, to recognize how stained we are when we take a shower and put on clean clothes every morning, and arrive in our offices and classrooms to find that someone has come to sweep, mop, and take out the trash during the overnight hours.
But that depravity and those stains are real. The gospel is the lens through which it all becomes shockingly, horrifyingly real.
But the gospel is also the purifying, cleansing river of blood that flows from Calvary. The scene at Golgotha was not nice or pretty. But it was there, on that terrifying, scandalous night, that a way was made for us to be reconciled to our Creator. That night, the world experienced a cosmic shift in the war against sin.
And a few mornings later, the world experienced a cosmic shift in the war against death as well.
Lent begins next week, and in April will come Holy Week, and then Easter. Please resist the tendency to see these occasions as “nice” times to reflect on the story of those days. Instead, see them as occasions to celebrate the gospel.
The gospel. The beautiful, glorious, precious gospel of the grace of God.