Acts 28 is an interesting passage that has Paul reaching his final destination: the doorstep and home of the Roman Empire.. But what it doesn’t have is a proper ending.
Acts 28: 30-31 reads, For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
Then he converted the entire city of Rome and all lived happily ever after?
Millons and millions of people started crying and donating to his ministry and the “Save Paul” fund?
Paul stated the first televangelist programming and promised holy oil for the low love offering of $19.95?
Luke decides not to tell us, but history has it that Paul ended up dying at the hands of Nero.
While this may be a tantalizing thing to wonder, it’s not what’s at the heart of Paul, or the story that Luke is trying to share. Instead, what we need to see was that Paul preached The Kingdom of God. Not the need for a personal conversion, not the need for a sinners prayer, not even that Jesus needs to ‘be in your heart’ (which I can’t help but think that Paul would find just a bit ridiculous).
But, what is the Kingdom of God?
Or, as I’m posing (which I think is a related question): What is the Gospel?
What is the good news that Jesus brings?
First, the problem, which is two-fold.
1.) The word ‘gospel’ has itself become so common and mundane that we forget that it literally means ‘good news’ and should therefore, by extension, be both newsworthy and good.
2.) On a related matter, many of the reasons why it is not good is because of us Christians. We are good at making headlines, of making certain issues newsworthy, but we are typically not doing it in the loving and grace filled way that Jesus did. A recent study shows the key words associated with Christians in America today are antigay, judgmental and hypocritical.
I don’t see any of those qualities in Jesus.
So when we read things like “Gospel” or “The Kingdom of God” we often fail to see what the Bible is talking about. We just don’t see the Gospel as being all that good.
Walter Brueggemann offers a highly helpful perspective:
“That is the bite in our faith and the crunch in our ministry. We are bearers of newness. But we address and, in part, ourselves constitute a world which has a low tolerance level for newness. But the faith community, synagogue and church, exists precisely to announce the new, to affirm that we do not live by what is, but what is promised.”
That is the crux of what Gospel is. It is the newness that is brought about by the work of Jesus. So when Paul speaks boldly about the Kingdom of God he is speaking about the new kind of Kingdom that Jesus brings.
Paul, as he stands close to death by the hands of one type of empire, advocates for another kind all together. A kingdom where Jew and Gentile are reconciled. A Kingdom where rich and poor fellowship together. A kingdom where men and women come together to as equals and demonstrate a new way to live.
Or, to quote famously, “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
Jesus type of Kingdom is one where all are forgiven, reconciled and made new. This sort of different living sets us apart from the world. Paul advocated for people to break out of the old and step into the new.
Now that really is Good News.
This post originally appeared here.