My friend Jay White posted a link to an interesting article in which prominent Christian leaders were asked to summarize the gospel in 7 words.
Hmmm, Christianity in 7 words. I’ll give you a few seconds to come up with your own phrase………….
The article is here. Some of the offerings (with links to the authors’ explanations, because 7 words aren’t really enough!) are:
Martin E. Marty: “God, through Jesus Christ, welcomes you anyhow.”
Donald W. Shriver: “Divinely persistent, God really loves us.”
Beverly Roberts Gaventa: “In Christ, God’s yes defeats our no.”
Brian McLaren: “In Christ, God calls all to reconciliation.”
Mary Karr: “We are the Church of Infinite Chances.”
Scott Cairns: “Christ’s humanity occasions our divinity.”
Walter Brueggemann: “Israel’s God’s bodied love continues world-making.” (“I used only six words,” he says; “I rested on the seventh.”)
I read the article late one evening and to be honest the 7 word summaries didn’t blow me away. They felt cautious and a little too academic. Kind of distant, arm’s length perspectives. Not one of them made me think, “Yes, I will give my life to that!!!” Something seemed missing.
The next morning I had moved on from the gospel in 7 words and was re-reading a section of Cynthia Bourgeault’s amazing book The Wisdom Way of Knowing. I was looking for a passage I wanted to share with my staff, and I literally stumbled across a story I had forgotten.
Cynthia writes about her dear friend, Hank, so vital and full of life, who was tragically diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hank was a seeker, not a believer. Here is Cynthia’s description of her final visit with him:
Three days before the end, I went for what was to be my last visit. Hank was curled in bed, his body totally broken yet somehow radiantly powerful. We hugged each other and said farewell. And then his last words to me—so muffled and unexpected that I did not at first catch them:
“Are you fearless yet?”
“Not yet, Hank,” I said. “I’m trying.”
“Fall … fearless … into … love.”
In those final mumbled words, Hank conveyed more to me of the essence of who he was and what life was than could have been done in a lifetime of spiritual teaching.
And there it was. The gospel in 4 words. “Fall fearless into love.” From the lips of a serious, dying seeker. I found myself thinking, “Now here’s something I can give my life to!”
If you ask me to summarize the gospel in a few words, I’m going to say, “Fall fearless into love.” I’ll give Hank Taft credit, of course. Hank’s intimate and personal phrase strikes me as most faithful to the original 7 word summary Jesus himself once offered: “Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.”