What is “good news” to your neighbors?
Is it when you shovel their sidewalks, drop off a meal when they’re sick, or check in on them when you haven’t seen them in a while? Or maybe it’s inviting them to the football game, winning the lottery, or getting a large tax refund!
Whatever it might be, each of your neighbors will likely have a different definition of “good news.” Now, if the gospel is supposed to be “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10), then what will it take for them to see it that way? To see the gospel, not just as news…but as good news?
Good news that doesn’t just “promise” contentment, and then leaves you empty and wanting. But good news that actually leads you to a life of contentment—“whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need” (Philippians 4:12). Good news that refreshes the weary, strengthens the burdened, and grants rest to the overworked (Matthew 11:28-30). And good news that brings peace to our divided world (Acts 10:36).
A life of freedom and flexibility
A few years ago, I wrote You Are What You Do: And Six Other Lies About Work, Life, and Love as a response to the rapidly growing gig economy (think side hustles not gigabytes) all around us. Everyone I met either had a side hustle or was funding someone else’s side hustle—and no one thought anything of it.
Over the last several years—and even more so through the pandemic—the gig economy went from something only a few people used to do, to something that is now mainstream and thought of positively. It was quickly becoming the new normal, and no one was questioning what it was doing to our lives, our work, and our relationships. Heck, as a pastor, even I was a part of this trend with all of my side hustles!
As I dug into it, and started investigating how the gig economy was affecting everyday life, I realized that it was promising something that it could never fully deliver on. It was promising a life of freedom and flexibility. Its “good news” was a life of control—where you are in full control of pretty much everything. Where you are God. It was the same sort of lie as in the garden of Eden.
So instead of seeing ourselves as the beloved children of God, we base our identity on what we do, what we’ve done, or what we’re going to accomplish in life (that’s the first lie in my book: you are what you do). Instead of recognizing that we are known deeply by our loving Saviour, Jesus, we strive to be known and be seen by others—which is basically the definition of social media (that’s the lie: you are who you know). And instead of living joyfully in our identity as a new creation in Christ, we seek after experiences to find meaning and joy (that’s the lie: you are what you experience).
But that’s not good news. Only Jesus is good news. And the only way to truly find and experience a life of freedom and flexibility is to go to the one who gave up his freedom and flexibility on the cross, so that we can experience it in Him.
Our evangelistic opportunity
In the sermon on the mount, I love how Jesus has this pattern of talking: “You have heard it was said…” “But I tell you…”
- Matt 5:21-22: “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”
- Matt 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
- Matt 5:38-39: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
- Matt 5:43-45: “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
- and on and on…
2000 years later, what if we followed the ancient ways of Jesus and taught and interacted with our culture in the same manner? What if this was how we talked about “good news” to our neighbors? Where we replaced the lies that our culture inundates us with, for the good news that is true of us when we have a relationship with Jesus?
Where we say…
- You heard it was said, “You are what you do,” but I say to you “You are a child of God.” (John 1:12)
- You heard it was said, “You are what you experience,” but I say to you, “You are a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17)
- You heard it was said, “You are who you know,” but I say to you, “You are known by our loving Savior, Jesus” (John 10:27)
- You heard it was said, “You are what you know,” but I say to you, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7a)
- You heard it was said, “You are what you own,” but I say to you, “You are complete in Jesus” (Col 2:9-10)
- You heard it was said, “You are who you raise,” but I say to you, “You are God’s masterpiece” (Eph 2:10)
- And you heard it was said, “You are your past,” but I say to you, “you are free from all condemnation in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1-2).
What if this was how we transitioned the conversations with our neighbors into spiritual ones? From news to good news?
Daniel Im is the Lead Pastor of Beulah Alliance Church, a multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and multi-campus church in Greater Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His latest book is You Are What You Do: And Six Other Lies about Work, Life, and Love. He is also the author of No Silver Bullets and co-author of Planting Missional Churches. He co-hosts the IMbetween Podcast with Christina, his wife. He has an M.A. in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary, and has served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, Edmonton, and Nashville. Because of their love for the local church, after pioneering and leading the church multiplication initiative for Lifeway, Daniel and Christina, moved back to Canada with their three children. For more information, visit danielim.com and follow him on social media @danielsangi.