The friendly gospel

Published March 11, 2014

(This article first appeared in the March issue of the Anglican Journal.)

A good friend, an indigenous Anglican priest from Guatemala, recently made a powerfully perceptive statement. Translated from Spanish, he said, “The gospel is friendly to our culture and life-ways.” This short sentence has a number of important dimensions.

At the simplest level, the gospel, in every aspect of human experience, is compassionate and directed to the well-being of all: “For God so loved…” (John 3:16).

Beyond that, the gospel-the Word made flesh in and though Jesus, the Word embodied-seeks expression in the local cultures and life-ways of every people. It is not a blanket endorsement of every aspect of human culture. While it challenges the many ways that human beings can distort and corrupt creation, it also reveals and fulfils the trajectory of that Word in human community, culture and creation. The Word of God is both the path of creation and the essential frame of creation-its beginning, its way, its destiny. Since the beginning, the light and life of God have never been lost in history, humanity and creation, as it is said in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. This light and life sustained our ancestors, even before they knew the fullness of life in the gospel. It sustains us now.

Implicit in my friend’s statement is something else: a critical comment. The religious presentation by the churches has not always been friendly to all cultures and life-ways. Rather than revealing or promoting the embodiment of the Word, the colonial churches often imposed a culture that was anything but friendly, falsely assuming this could only be a great benefit. Now, through the help of the gospel, many of us are on a journey of healing.

Happily, though it is not well known in the general public in North America, the friendly work of the gospel is happening among indigenous peoples. Though this cultural departure from Western Christianity may challenge some, it should delight many others, even those who are a part of quite different cultural communities. For, through the experience of indigenous peoples, it can be seen that the gospel is ready to transform or to be friendly to any culture, including the dominant modern culture and its life-ways. The gospel is ready to be born in all the various cultures of modern life, even its most secularized expressions.

The Good News is always working to transform us. Let us pray for open eyes and hearts to see it and receive it.




  • Mark MacDonald

    Mark MacDonald was national Indigenous Anglican bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada from 2007 to 2019, and national Indigenous Anglican archbishop from 2019 to 2022.

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