We must become EXCELLENT Translators of the Good News WITHOUT Changing it. We live in a world that is rapidly changing. The means through which we communicate and engage with the world around us are vastly different than they were a few year ago, let alone decades ago. In light of these changes, we must be able to excel in translating the Good News without changing it in order that the people in our world may hear and come to trust in the Giver of Life.
As followers of Yeshua/Jesus, we should want to live lives which win people for the Lord. Paul speaks about how he sought to live his life in such a way as to win some, whoever they may be (see 1 Cor. 9:19-23). In attempts to live out this glorious aim and to follow Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, many well intentioned followers of Yeshua have sought to blend in with those they are trying to reach. Some followers of Yeshua have used these verses to actually live lives which mirror the culture(s) they are trying to reach, rather than being transformed by the Holy Spirit in order to be conformed/shaped into the image of Messiah Yeshua Himself as one who lives according to His Kingdom (see Romans 12:1-2; 8:29).
Misunderstanding Paul (which is nothing new—even Peter warned about this in 2 Peter 3:16!), some have unintentionally changed Yeshua, His Word, or His Assembly into things they are not. In other words, some have sadly changed the Good News while attempting to better translate it in our day and age.
Please hear me: if we change Yeshua and His message in order to make Him and it more presentable to the world around us, we are failing in our task to translate but not change the Good News. When we do our task of translating the Good News without changing it, people will be able to understand the Message, but they may not easily accept Yeshua or His message for their lives. After all, it is not easy to make Yeshua in His totality, or His Word in its totality, match to the world in which we live… Yeshua and His Word, though they are near to those in the world, are not of it… If we only grab bits and pieces of Yeshua and bits and pieces of His Word (pieces which we or the world likes—like being in a spiritual buffet line), then we can easily shape Yeshua and His Word into the mold of the world around us. Sadly, many well-intentioned followers of Yeshua have done this… In doing so, in an attempt to translate the Good News, some have changed it.
In attempts to reach the lost, some have sadly changed Yeshua, His Word, and His Assembly into things they are not. By doing so, some have reduced the Lord of Heaven and earth into an all-accepting and all-affirming people-pleaser, and have reduced the very gospel message which is the power of God to save both Israel and the Nations to something not powerful enough to change, heal, or free anyone.
It is true that we must be able to live a winsome life and that we must be able to communicate the Good News to those whom we encounter—no matter who or where they are or what they do or affirm. We must reach them with love and service, with grace and truth. But in doing so, we must not change Yeshua or His Good News into things that they are not.
We must be able to honestly engage and communicate with the people created in the image and likeness of our God within the culture(s) around us. To do so, we must be excellent translators of the Gospel! But in our translation, we cannot change Yeshua Himself, or His Word, or His Assembly into things that they are not… In short: we must be excellent translators of the Good News without changing it.
Pastor James Emery White writes about this in his book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017).
Pastor White states, “Many Christians seem more intent on fitting into culture, or at least getting its affirmation, than opposing it. And the entire idea of being an enemy, or having one, seems out of sync with the Christ[ian] life. But it isn’t” (White, Meet Generation Z, p. 100).
Pastor White goes on to write:
Suffice it to say, we are behind enemy lines. When behind enemy lines, there are enemies. The goal is not to be enemy-free, as if Christianity at its purest is so winsome and compelling that no one who “gets it” will ever reject it. No, the gospel is scandalous and offensive. Many will openly reject it, not to mention its moral mandates. We are not to embody culture but the Christian counterculture. The kingdom of God we advance is not the kingdom currently in place.
The problem isn’t having enemies. It’s having the right ones for the right reasons. Don’t have enemies because you are intentionally offensive in spirit and interrelated dynamics. Don’t have enemies because you are caustic and abrasive. Don’t have enemies because you are unfeeling and unloving. But…
Do have enemies because you stand for truth. Do have enemies because you will not waver in the face of majority opinion when it crashes against biblical authority. Do have enemies because you will not personally compromise your convictions. After all, Jesus did. (White, Meet Generation Z, pp. 101-2).
May we come to live as followers of Yeshua who are behind defeated enemy lines. People are not the enemy, they are those for whom Yeshua came to save. May we live out a counterculture of the Kingdom in the midst of the culture(s) we have been sent to reach. May we reach them with the Good News of Yeshua. May we become excellent translators of His Good News, without changing it into something it is not.