Recently, the folks over at The Christian Century have been challenging some well-known Christian authors to work with fewer words, asking them to summarize the gospel in seven words or less. (They were also given “a few sentences” to explain their seven-word answers.) Considering that the average “All Things Linked” post here at TJP is in the 300-500 word neighborhood, a limit that I can easily blow past, this contest got my attention. Could that even be possible?
Two of my favorites are by Martin Marty and Mary Karr. Allow me to fully disclose: I have interviewed and profiled Karr while working at America Magazine, and though I have never met him, I am a student at the University of Chicago, where Marty taught for thirty-give years. Still, independent of all that, their answers are the best, I think.
Marty: God, through Jesus Christ, welcomes you anyhow. (Explain, please!)
Karr: We are the church of infinite chances. (You too!)
Both of these micro-gospels challenge our habit of treating Christianity as a refuge for people who “have it all together” or who are doing just fine, thank-you-very-much. In our more honest moments, we know that church is a collection of broken-down sinners – capable of amazing things – but who are in need of grace, salvation, and love, repeatedly.
Maybe most people don’t have this experience of church, or don’t have it most of the time; it isn’t always even my experience of church. There’s something uncomfortable about recognizing the mess which we bring ourselves before God, and there’s a seeming security in thinking that being connected to the church means that I’m already on the inside track. It’s been attractive for a long time – why else would a certain Someone have gone on the record saying “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners“?
That was good news then, and it’s good news now – even if Jesus used ten words instead of seven.
Editors note: If you’d like to try your hand, in seven words or less, the comments box is open …