"Forty-two, forty-three, forty-four..."
Lisbeth, the seven-year-old Hispanic girl I tutor, narrowed her eyes as she thought hard about how to say the character "5" in English. Her little nose crinkled in frustration.
I was struck by the determination Lisbeth had to persevere through her homework, even though she knew very little English. I wondered what it was like for her in school. I imagined her sitting in class while her teacher and all of her classmates freely spoke English. Did she have any friends besides her brothers and sister? Was she lonely?
Snack time. Another youth leader brought a tray of animal crackers and fruit snacks. The younger Hispanic kids eagerly devoured their food, but the oldest stuffed his into his pockets. "Puedo tener mas, por favor?" he asked. At my approval, he took the leftovers and stowed them away. His shorts started sagging and I helped him adjust his belt so he could transport them home.
While the group of kids left the classroom to listen to a Bible story (none of which the Hispanic children could understand), Lisbeth and I continued with her homework sheet ("Tengo que traerle a escuela manana." [I have to bring it to school tomorrow] she said). I overheard one of the leaders from the main foyer talking about how Jesus forgives sin. If Lisbeth could even understand this, would it really be pertinent to her?
Lately, I've been contemplating the idea of "good news." I think that we evangelicals primarily think of "good news" in terms of Jesus coming to forgive sins. While this certainly is good news, I'm not entirely sure that this completely encompasses what is meant by "good news." I'm not even sure if this is what Jesus meant by "good news."
I love the passage in Luke 4 where Jesus goes to the synagogue and chooses a scroll that contains Second Isaiah.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor [Jubilee].
Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.
- Luke 4:18-19, 21; c.f. Isaiah 61:1-2 ff.
Luke uses this passage as a "thesis statement" for the rest of his Gospel. This is strategically placed at the beginning of his account to illustrate Jesus' main interests. And yet, I don’t think that this is a main interest of Western Christianity today. Whenever we find people talking about such things, we accuse them of dabbling in liberation theology. I understand the dangers of liberation theology, but I’m not ready to dismiss it in its entirety. Maybe they’re on to something that we're missing.
The proclamation of release from the bondage of sin may be “good news” for the person who’s struggling with habitual sin, but how is it “good news” for Lisbeth when her family is starving? In addition to her forgiveness of sin, Lisbeth needs to know that God wants to provide for her and her brothers and sister. She needs to know that God speaks her language. She needs to know that God hears her and her mother’s cries for help when everyone else gives a deaf ear and forces them on the fringes of society.
I'm convinced that Jesus' Gospel can be contextualized and translated into each person's/community's situation.
And that’s good news.