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Is the Gospel Really Good News?

As a chaplain at a hospital, there are a lot of rules and regulations. But probably the most important one is this:

“No proselytizing”

We have access to hundreds of vulnerable people, and we carry the authority of the hospital in the name tag on our chests. To try and change someone’s theology into a mirror of our own is an abuse of that power and privilege.

I am often asked, “What church are you with?” To which I reply that I work for the hospital. If pressed, I will answer that I personally attend an Episcopal church.

There is a difference between proselytizing and evangelism, however. To proselytize is to “induce” someone to join your own faith, party, or cause. While evangelism has come to mean something very similar, the original Greek is much simpler. The Greek word was introduced in the New Testament writings, a word borrowed to describe the message of Jesus.

And what is the message of Jesus? That God loves us, no matter what. That God’s love for us cannot be destroyed, even in death.

As the Song of Solomon says, “love is stronger than death, many waters cannot quench love, neither shall the floods drown it.”

To be clear, I do not proselytize or evangelize at work.

I seek only to learn a patient’s theology and help them incorporate it into the medical issues they are facing. I have been asked many direct theological questions, and I always reply with questions of my own, rather than definitive answers from my own theology.

Yet the thing that brings me the greatest satisfaction in my job is that I am spreading my interpretation of the original “evangelion:” the message of God’s overwhelming love. Quite often I use Psalm 139 to convey this message. I build it into my prayers, naming my Christian patients as sons and daughters of God.

God loves us, no matter what.

To me, that is the true Gospel. And it really is Good News. Every day that I get to convey God’s love to another human being is a day of joy for me.

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