Costco has become one of my favorite places. Especially on Tuesday mornings when I go with Ian (our three-year-old). The place is still pretty empty. So Ian can run around, climb on the furniture, and “help” push the cart without bothering anyone—most of the time.
The morning gets better if we arrive at just the right time to miss the crowds but still get the samples. Samples are seriously a grace of God. Often Ian will ask for something, try it, then hand it to me and say, “I don’t want it.” Great! More samples for me.
It’s the nature of samples to fish for preferences. Samples aren’t made for anyone in particular. Instead they are put out for the masses. The hope is that someone will have a preference for the sample and want more. But sometimes, few people have a preference for the sample and the product just goes away.
I love samples. And it’s probably because I am the product of a “sample” culture. Everything from foods to ideas to lifestyles are put out for us to try, to see if we have a preference for it. To see if we like it. If we do, there’s always a way to get more. And if we don’t, that’s ok. It’s just not our preference. The sample just wasn’t made for us.
But some things in our world weren’t made to be samples. Some things weren’t made just for people’s preferences. Some things were meant to be served to everyone.
The Gospel is one of those things.
It often doesn’t feel this way, because a lot people seem fine without the good news of Jesus. Many people have good families, are nice neighbors, have nice jobs, and live decent moral lives – all without putting their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
It can often seem like the Gospel message is just a sample. At some point people may or may not try it. And they may or may not decide it is for them. And even if they never try it, our sample culture says, “that’s ok, there are plenty of other things for you to enjoy.”
In the Bible, the Apostle Paul saw things differently. Specifically he didn’t see the Gospel as just another thing to be sampled. He says, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes…”
Paul didn’t see himself as one who passively stands in the marketplace of ideas offering one option among many for people to try. Rather, he saw himself as one called to go serve, to bring the Gospel to everyone. He knew that the Gospel was made for everyone. And that everyone needs the Gospel.
Despite what our lives look like on the outside. Despite the myriad of choices before us. Without the goodness of the Gospel, we’re always looking for good news somewhere else. We’re always in pursuit of the thing that will finally satisfy all our preferences. But sadly, in our attempt to satisfy ourselves we end up destroying ourselves and others.
Eugene Peterson describes this kind of life perfectly:
“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.” (Galatians 5:19-21 MSG)
These are the parts of our life that we don’t like to talk about. These are the parts our life that need more than a sample of something to satisfy our preferences. These are the parts of our life that need the power of God. They are the parts of our life that need the Gospel.
The Gospel was made for everyone. Because everyone needs the Gospel.
Every person, every household, every neighborhood, every people group, every culture, whether they recognize it or not is in need of the power of God. They are in need of God’s saving work. They are in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is why the Gospel will never be just another sample.
If we have been transformed by the Gospel, let us pray that God would empower us to move beyond our sample tables. In order that we, like Paul, might bring the Good News we have been given to everyone we meet.