Understanding the good news of the gospel

The gospel is such good news, but for those who are care-experienced there are parts of the Easter story that may feel more complex.

The gospel is such good news.

Easter is an incredible celebration of new life. It’s a time where, as Christians, we remember that sin and death were defeated once and for all because of Jesus’ death on the cross.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to be told twice that I’ve made mistakes and that my life misses the standard (in so many ways) that God created me to live by. To be reminded of the truth of His saving grace, forgiveness and the promise of a fresh start is truth that is freeing.

The gospel is such good news, but for those who are care-experienced there are parts of the Easter story that may feel more complex. This doesn’t take away its power, or diminish our belief in the good news to transform, or mean that we look to dilute it in any way. But it perhaps should affect how we approach communicating, teaching and sharing about it so that we are not a barrier to its impact.

Here are 4 things you may not have considered before.

All are sinners.

    Romans 3 v 23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None of us are perfect; all our lives have missed the mark.

    There’s a difference between guilt (which says ‘I’ve done something wrong’) and shame (which says ‘I am wrong’). While most of us are unlikely to respond particularly positively to an aggressively communicated ‘turn or burn’ style message, it’s unlikely to trigger a shame response in us.

    For those who have experienced trauma, toxic shame is something deep rooted. These feelings are often so overwhelming that children develop behaviours in order to handle them; they may fight, avoid situations or conversations where these feelings might arise, or sabotage events or experiences because they believe they don’t deserve them. Children can believe that it’s their fault that they are no longer able to live with their birth family.

    We sing hymns that beautifully capture the punishment that Jesus bore that should have been ours.

    Behold the man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders

    Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.

    It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished...

    If we present the gospel with a heavy focus on our role in His death without thought for the care-experienced amongst us, then instead of this being something which equalises and reassures us, it could be something that triggers a shame response and creates greater distance.

    Of course, we don’t shy away from the truth of the bible nor do we present an edited (and therefore false) gospel - but what if we considered the care-experienced in our churches and communities, from children to adults, whenever we shared the good news? If we brought balance and explanation that drew people near instead of pushing them aside?

    The old is gone, the new has come.

      Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

      The amazing truth of the gospel is the promise of a fresh start, the slate wiped clean and an invitation to a new life.

      For those who are care-experienced, the association of a ‘new’ start may not always be so positive. New beginnings may be associated with feelings of joy, hope, celebration and a new family to belong to. However, there will also be grief, reminders of the loss of what has been and the complexity and confusion of feeling these things simultaneously.

      The gospel does offer us a new life in Christ as we begin a journey that’s new with Him, whatever has gone before. But let’s not be careless with our words and inadvertently belittle someone’s story in doing so.

      The journey to the cross

        What happened to Jesus on the journey to the cross is brutal. We read in the gospels that He was beaten, mocked, spat on and more. The bible tells us that He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2) because He knew that it would set you and me free once and for all.

        For some children, reading or watching accounts, animated or otherwise may be an even more difficult experience because of the overlap it may have with their own story. Trying to wrap our minds around our saviour who would do this willingly for us is bewildering and requires quite sophisticated thinking to begin to understand. For children who have experienced trauma, brain development is impaired, specifically those parts needed to understand bigger picture thinking, and therefore their understanding may not correlate to their chronological age nor their response appear proportionate.

        Let’s be creative and flexible in our approach to retelling this story. Let’s explore how we share it, the means of delivery and the why behind sharing it so that it captures hearts rather than being a trigger.

        Abandoned

          My God, My God, why have you abandoned me? Matthew 27:46

          This is one of the most powerful moments in the Good Friday story as the weight of our sin separates Jesus from His father in heaven for the first time.

          For many care experienced children, this cry may echo that of their own hearts. The story of someone being ‘abandoned’ by a loving God and Father may be difficult to understand. This may press on some pain in them which may be expressed through behaviour that appears unrelated or disproportionate. If we are sensitive to that, we will respond from a place of care and nurture instead of jumping to correction and frustration.

          When we understand the significance of that moment on the cross, it’s powerful. But if the listener believes that when they make a mistake those around them will love them less, or worse, leave them, then we need to help reframe this moment to draw that listener near.

          With some careful exploration and explanation, and a loving journey of understanding, perhaps those who have experienced trauma could have the opportunity to recognise themselves in the story. But we must be sensitive to the fact that the journey may well unearth layers of grief too. Grief is woven through the gospel story, and God is a safe and right place for all those feelings.

          The word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. (NIV)

          The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood. (MSG)

          John 1 v 14

          Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the gospel is that the God who created the heavens and the earth loved you and I so much that He stepped down from the glory of those heavens and made His home amongst us. He moved into the neighbourhood. He didn’t see our fallenness, brokenness, mess or pain as something remote or disconnected from Him. He stepped in. He told us about the love of the father, but He also showed us. In the way He lived, in how He loved and treated people. He didn’t avoid the difficult reality of people’s lives nor shy away from their pain or rebellion but instead pointed to the hope, secure and promised, that can be found in Him.

          And He does the same today.

          The gospel is such good news.

          Author:
          Claire H for Home for Good


          Date published:
          4 April 2021


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