“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 (ESV)
All through the Gospels, Jesus gives us examples of how we are to be his followers, treat our neighbors, who our neighbors are, and how to minister to the world around us. Mark 1:14 is about the very beginning of Jesus’s public ministry. The first thing he does is tell his audience of Jews the time is fulfilled. Without going into an Old Testament history lecture, Jesus’s listeners would have known he was talking about the prophesies of the Messiah. Saying the “kingdom of God is at hand” probably got them thinking the wrong thing, namely that we was the military leader type Messiah that would throw out the Roman Empire and sit as king on the throne in Jerusalem. Yes, he was beginning to build the kingdom of God if that’s what you’re thinking; I also think he’s announcing the kingdom of God is close to them, close at hand, as in himself. Jesus is the way into the kingdom of God, so in a sense, the kingdom of God was within arm’s reach of the people listening. Then it gets really good.
“Repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus calls for repentance, but doesn’t list for them every sin they have committed. He doesn’t tell them which sins are worse than others, just to repent. He calls for belief in the gospel. He wants them to hear and understand the “good news,” which is what gospel is. We took that word straight from Greek, and some translations use good news instead of gospel every time. The good news being, of course, that Jesus is the way the truth and the life. God loved them enough to send his very own son, and that time has come. The kingdom of God is close to them, if they will only believe. But don’t miss Jesus’s example. His first sermon was sharing the gospel. He didn’t make big signs that say “God hates fags” and do something stupid like protest a funeral. He didn’t chain himself to anything. He didn’t start a letter writing campaign to political leaders. Jesus condemned the political leaders of his day, but didn’t waste a lot of time and energy on it. He spent his time teaching, preaching the gospel, feeding the hungry, and healing the sick. Jesus didn’t go around telling sinners how bad their sins were. If Jesus thought the most important thing for sinners in the first century to do was believe in him, why should we think any differently?
The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time ministering and planting churches in Greece. Homosexuality abounded in Greek and Roman culture. There was nudity, sexual acts performed on stage in plays, Paul couldn’t have missed it. But he didn’t spend all day carrying a sign and protesting in front of the bath houses. He said if the only thing the Corinthians learned was Christ and him crucified, it was enough. Paul spread the gospel throughout southern Europe and Asia minor, lands filled with pagan worship and immorality of every type. His unchanging goal was to share Christ with unbelievers and built up the church, wherever he found it. And in his letters to Timothy and Titus, he encourages them to continue in the gospel they have learned from him, and never abandon that story for some other story.
We can’t expect a culture full of unbelievers to act like believers. Sinners commit sin, and Christians shouldn’t be shocked by that fact. Christians commit sins too, but that’s a whole other ball of wax right there. Our culture is at enmity with God, and we are not of this world, just in it. If everyone in America obeyed a very long list of rules we wrote out for Godly behavior, they would still die and go to hell without knowing Christ. We’ve got to share the gospel. If you know the gospel message, help get it out there. Jesus did. Let’s imitate.