Have you ever heard of Brian Regan (not the comedian, but the would-be spy)? Back in 2003, Regan was a former analyst for the United States Air Force. Regan made headlines when he sent an email (of all things) to the Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi with the subject line, “I am willing to commit espionage against the United States by providing your country with classified information.”
Regan wasn’t the smartest spy who ever lived. In fact, he wasn’t a spy at all. At his trial (of course he was caught), his attorney defended him with the following introduction, “This is not a case of espionage…This is a case of bad judgment bordering on stupidity.” It turned out that Mr. Regan was living a fantasy-filled life in which he could never follow through on anything he would cook up. His attempts were consistent with other “fantasies” in his life. Mr. Regan was living an outrageous story that caused him to do some silly and dangerous things.
The story we live by impacts everything about us: our outlook, priorities, relationships, pursuits…everything. This past weekend, we looked at Philippians 1:18-30. As Paul describes his prison circumstances to the church in Philippi, it’s clear that Paul’s story is the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is able to interpret his relationships (those who are for him AND those who are trying to stick it to him), and he is able to see his hard circumstances (he’s in prison after all) through the lens of knowing Jesus and making him known.
For Paul, the gospel is THE story, and if it is a “true myth” (as C.S. Lewis says), then we should expect to hear echoes, see glimpses of it everywhere…IF we’re paying attention. My friend Mike Metzger has a helpful way of describing the way the gospel shows up in life. He describes the contours of the gospel as OUGHT – IS – CAN – WILL BE. Everywhere in life we see brokenness and we feel the ache of what is, “it shouldn’t be this way,” we think, “it ought to be different.” We long for an original state of wholeness. This is where the gospel story begins.
Because of Jesus’ life, death, and victory, we know that it won’t always be this way. Caterpillars weren’t meant to come out with no wings, and we can legitimately hope for the day when it will be. The gospel pulsing through our life experience.
Where do you feel the longing of OUGHT today?
Where do you feel the pain of what IS?
How does the fact that Jesus is alive (and returning one day!) give us hope for what CAN and WILL BE?
Keep these four phrases in front of you, and you’ll learn to see the gospel all over the place. May God give us grace to fashion our lives around it.