Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Benjamin Sternke on The Good News

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

This entry is a part of an on-going blog series called The Good News, which is taking place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. Ben’s local newspaper is the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. Here is Ben Sternke on the Good News.

THE GOOD NEWS

I grew up as a relatively well-behaved Christian kid in a small town in the southern Minnesota, and the understanding of the good news of Jesus that I inherited was something along the lines of “We are sinners, and deserve hell, but because Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead so we can receive the free gift of salvation, which means our sins are forgiven and we can go to heaven when we die.”

The question that nagged me was what in the world that had to do with living life now. It sounded suspiciously like an insurance policy, payable upon death, but not much use before that.

What I slowly started to realize was that my definition of the gospel was anemic. It wasn’t wrong, technically (I still believe all of the above propositions), but it didn’t tell the whole truth. What I thought was the definition of the gospel was merely one of its ramifications.

I’m a bit of a music geek, so I’ve found a musical metaphor that illuminates the issue: the difference between a fundamental and an overtone. In music, every tone you hear contains within it a fundamental frequency that determines if it is an A, a D flat, or an F sharp, for example. But every tone also contains overtones, which are other frequencies that sound simultaneously, giving the fundamental tone a unique “flavor.” The overtones are why an F sharp played on a piano sounds different than the same note played on a tuba or guitar. All three instruments can be playing the same fundamental (F sharp) but they will be sounding different overtones, giving each instrument its unique sound quality.

What I discovered is that the “go to heaven when you die” version of the good news is not the fundamental of the good news, it’s an overtone. It’s an implication of the good news, not the news itself. So if that’s an overtone of the good news, what is the fundamental?

It’s actually a strange message. The good news that Christians proclaim is that a crucified Jewish Messiah is the risen Lord of the world, and that through his death on a Roman cross and his bodily resurrection, God has accomplished the final victory over all the powers that hold humanity in slavery, including sin, fear and death. The freedom, love, and beauty of God’s future has come bursting into our lives and he calls and enables us to live in that future now, as a sign of what God has done, is doing, and will do (the overtones): renewing all things, putting everything right, bringing justice and mercy to the oppressed, forgiving sin, cancelling debt, enacting reconciliation and peace.

It’s an odd thing to say God did all that in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it is the message we have been given to celebrate and proclaim, in word and action. And you have to admit, taken at face value, it is really good news.

Ben Sternke has lived and worked in Fort Wayne, Indiana for over 10 years and is trying to figure out what it means for a missional community to morph into a church plant (ideas? email them to ben [dot] sternke [at] gmail [dot] com). He is in way over his head as a husband to Deb and father of Ethan (11), Raina (8), Ella (5), and Sydney (4). He dabbles in music, web design, studying for a Master’s degree, and blogging. He very much enjoys Thai cuisine and playing basketball (not usually at the same time).


7 Responses to Benjamin Sternke on The Good News

  1. Maria says:

    Ben, thanks for the great musical metaphor. That’s really helpful in talking about the gospel…. i’m going to remember that one! :)

  2. Ben Sternke says:

    Glad it was helpful, Maria.

  3. Sonja says:

    Benjamin,
    I like the idea of an ‘an overtone’ you mentioned.The beauty reminds me of ‘a dolphin’s cry’ and how great it is to observe their play…

  4. jrwoodward says:

    Ben,

    Thanks for sharing your developing understanding of the good news and glad to hear how robust it has become!

  5. Benson says:

    ben,
    been lurking on your blog for awhile, love the thoughts you have there.
    what you’ve articulate is similar to what james choung has put together here: http://www.jameschoung.net/2007/09/17/the-big-story/. thought you may be interested!

  6. Ben Sternke says:

    Thanks for the link, Benson. Peace!

  7. Pingback: The Good News « Joewulf’s Weblog

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