A Perfect Pearl
Is our gospel too small? From what Jesus says, I think that God likes small. Small and hidden, actually.
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It is like yeast. It is like a perfect pearl. It is like finding just one lost sheep. Or just one lost coin. It belongs to little children and others who were "small" in the estimation of Jesus' contemporaries.
God likes small beginnings. He likes to work in hidden ways that are easily overlooked. He loves any lost individual, even when he has 99 percent of the others safely under his care. He passionately cares for the socially unimportant whom others trample as they rush toward worldly prominence.
In 2008, the third and final series of Christian Vision Project essays challenged the smallness of our gospel. But that doesn't mean that small is necessarily bad. Small doesn't mean "insignificant" or "of no consequence." Indeed, the Good News of Jesus Christ is the most consequential news bulletin in the history of the world. And the individuals for whom he died are, as the old Sunday school song says, his "precious jewels."
Last January, Mark Labberton began this final series of Christian Vision Project essays by comparing the gospel many of us live by to a bland bowl of lima beans. "Many have the impression," he wrote, "that the gospel is small, smooth, and tasteless."
When I re-read Labberton's essay, I began to think of a different kind of "small" food. I thought of tapas, the small portions of intensely flavored dishes that have long served as appetizers in Spain. Over the last quarter century they have become an entire cuisine in some American restaurants. The first time friends invited me to a tapas restaurant, I was not intrigued. It was the 1980s, and American culture still ...