By Ken Stoll
Just who is the gospel for?
Dallas Willard writes:
Blessed are the physically repulsive,
Blessed are those who smell bad,
The twisted, misshapen, deformed,
The too big, too little, too loud,
The bald, the fat, and the old-
For they are all riotously celebrated in the party of Jesus.
Then there are the ‘seriously’ crushed ones: The flunk-outs and drop-outs and burned-outs. The broke and the broken. The drug heads and the divorced. The HIV positive and herpes-ridden. The brain-damaged, the incurably ill. The barren and the pregnant many-times or at the wrong time. The over-employed, the underemployed, the unemployed. The unemployable. The swindled, shoved aside, the replaced. The parents with children living on the street, the children with parents not dying in the ‘rest’ home. The lonely, the incompetent, the stupid. The emotionally starved or emotionally dead. And on and on and on.
Is it true that ‘Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal?’ It is true! That is precisely the gospel of heaven’s availability that comes to us through the Beatitudes. And you don’t have to wait until you’re dead. Jesus brings to all such people as these the present blessedness of the present kingdom—regardless of circumstances. The condition of life sought for by human beings through the ages is attained in the quietly transforming friendship of Jesus.
Even the moral disasters will be received by God as they come to rely on Jesus, count on Him, and make Him their companion in His kingdom. Murderers and child-molesters. The brutal and the bigoted. Drug lords and pornographers. War criminals and sadists. Terrorists. The perverted and the filthy and the filthy rich. The David Berkowitzs (‘Son of Sam’), Jeffrey Dahmers, and Colonel Noriegas.
Can’t we feel some sympathy for Jesus’ contemporaries, who huffed at him, ‘This man is cordial to sinners, and even eats with them!’ Sometimes I feel I don’t really want the kingdom to be open to such people. But it is. That is the heart of God. And, as Jonah learned from his experience preaching to those wretched Ninevites, we can’t shrink Him down to our size.
That’s who the gospel is for. After all, what kind of good news would we be spreading if it were reserved for good church people?