The Tale of Kieu (Truyện Kiều) is well known, but the Gospel is a mystery to most people. ‘Gospel’ literally means ‘Good news’ but many do not know why. It is ‘Good News’ because of its similarity, but having a different ending, with the Tale of Kieu.
The Gospel is the main theme of the Bible. From the beginning to the end of the Bible this idea of Good News, in the midst of bad news is found in that Book. Though it is an ancient message recounting events of long ago, the Gospel also is a story that includes you and me living today.
Beginning of the Tale: The Gospel is like Tale of Kieu
The Bible tells us that at the beginning of human history, at the time of our first ancestors, God – the Creator who made the world and our ancestors – was in close friendship with our ancestors. The image sometimes used for this kind of close friendship in the Bible is the image of a man and a woman in love. In this way the Gospel starts like the Tale of Kieu when Thuy Kieu is close to, and pledged to marry, Kim Trong. Picture it below with God close to and in a loving friendship with our earliest ancestors. Just like Thuy Kieu was beautiful so our ancestors were beautiful to God.
Sadness of Sin and Separation in Both Tales
But, like the Tale of Kieu, the gospel story quickly becomes bad. A key sentence explaining why starts like this:
‘For all have…’
The word ‘all’ means all people that have ever lived – and this includes you and me. The sentence continues:
‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23)
This is a truth which we can illustrate in the following way. God – the Creator who made the world – is now high up in the Sky. He resides in the sky at a great distance from you and me who live below on earth. Why? Because all of us (again you and me!) have ‘sinned’.
Many people do not like that the Bible says we all have ‘sin’. But let us look honestly at the world we live in. Do you not have to lock your house when you leave? Do you not have to be careful to avoid being robbed? Does not every country need police to keep peace and order? Does there not seem to be corruption everywhere? (And is it not often the police themselves who can be corrupt – the very people we need to keep us honest). Is it not true that we commonly lie to each other and even break promises? And for this reason we often have difficulty trusting others. These are all symptoms of ‘sin’ that damages the relationships between all of us. When you think of all the locks on doors, security cameras and police that we all need to protect ourselves from each other – that shows the reality of sin.
Sin makes A Barrier of Bad Karma
This sin creates barriers between people but even more so creates a barrier between us and God in the Sky. The Bible describes it in the following way:
For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23)
We can understand this ‘death’ as a Law of karma – the consequences that we reap from the sins that we do. This karma is literally ‘death’ to us because in the Bible ‘death’ means ‘separation’. In fact the Bible goes so far as to say:
Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. (John 8:34)
In the Tale of Kieu, Thuy Kieu is separated from Kim Trong and the relationship is ruptured. In fact she has to sell herself into prostitution. She was a slave, separated from her lover. The Bible declares that it is similar for you and me and we can picture it like this
Our sin results in death, a karma that is a barrier between us and God in the Sky which I have pictured as a thick red bar between us and God. We now live as slaves with our bad karma – just like Thuy Kieu had to in the Tale of Kieu.
Thuy Kieu was not happy enslaved by Scholar Ma in the brothel so she worked hard to escape. She did escape from him, but only found herself as a mistress with another man and his jealous wife. So Thuy Kieu escaped again and sought refuge in a Buddhist temple – but was rejected – and then ended up as a prostitute again. Though she tried hard she could not escape her karma.
Our Efforts at Merit: As Useless as Kieu’s efforts to escape her fate
This is very much how the Bible describes us. We know deep down inside that something is not right. So many of us try very hard to live a better, more honest life. We try to stop doing the sins that bring bad karma. Some of us even try to gain merit at temples, at religious festivals, and in honoring our ancestors. Though these may be good efforts, the Bible tells us that, like with what happened to Thuy Kieu, they are not sufficient to break our karma and break the barrier separating us from God. We can picture this with a thick, red arrow coming from us, illustrating our efforts for merit, trying to break through the barrier of karma. But though we may try hard the barrier does not break. Like Thuy Kieu we are still enslaved.
The Gospel: Now this Story becomes Good News
Up to this point the gospel story of the Bible follows that of Tale of Kieu, but now it gets better. It becomes the ‘good news’ that the gospel means. What we were not able to do, in breaking our karma and destroying the barrier separating us from God, God himself did for us. He came to us and lived among us as a human. This was when Jesus Christ lived on earth about 2000 years ago. He lived a life free from sin and without any bad karma. However he was crucified on a cross by corrupt men. He was put to death on a cross which we can picture like this.
But the story does not end there. The Bible tells us that he came back to life – not as a ghost or spirit – but as a living human who ate, walked and talked with other people. This happened three days after he was crucified. The death and resurrection cancels our sin and breaks through the barrier of karma standing between us and God. We can picture it like this.
The Gospel: Offering Everlasting Life
Jesus came back to life from the grave and lives forever. Like gold he will not suffer any decay. So we picture this with a gold arrow coming out from the ground. Our sin is now cancelled and there is a way that can now re-connect us with God.
How is this possible? The Bible states the Law of Karma as
The wages of sin is death…
So death is a payment that is required to redeem us or buy our freedom. Long before Jesus lived an inspired king of the Bible wrote
7 No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
8 the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
9 so that they should live on forever
and not see decay. (Psalm 49: 7-9)
Good merits will never be sufficient to pay the required amount. This sage then wrote
13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
14 They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd …
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.
15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
he will surely take me to himself. (Psalm 49: 13-15)
With the death and resurrection of Jesus we are redeemed, or bought back, from slavery to sin and death, because a sufficient price has been paid as this sage had prophesied one day would happen to him.
The Law of Karma and Good News is:
The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
So now God offers you and me a ‘gift’. Think about gifts. If someone brings you a gift, if it is to remain a gift, you cannot pay for it. And it is not enough to merely ‘believe’, as in to mentally accept, that someone is giving you a gift. For you to benefit from any gift that is offered to you, you must simply ‘receive’ it – no more, but also no less. This is why the Gospel promises that
Yet to all who did receive him (Jesus), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12)
But how do we receive this gift? The Bible says
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)
God wants us to call out to him and ask. Perhaps you have doubts and questions. Tell him. He will guide you because he said he would save us. Perhaps you can call out to him like this.
Dear God. I know that I am separated from you and am under the law of karma of sin and death. I hear that the gospel is the good news that you have redeemed me from this law because of the death and resurrection of Jesus and now you offer me a gift of life. I am not very sure and have many doubts and questions. If this is really true I would like to receive this gift. Please show me the way.
God will hear and guide you. Perhaps a good way to start exploring if this is true is by understanding the promise given to the first human ancestors prophesying how God would accomplish this redemption (here). Then see how he gave more details about this redemption long ago to Abraham (here) and Moses (here).
In the Tale of Kieu, Thuy Kieu is finally re-united with Kim Trong. However, this reunion did not bring earthly joy for Kiều, because her defilements make union with Kim impossible. How different from the end of the Gospel story which describes the re-union between God and us like this
I saw the Holy City … coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21: 2-4)
With the promise of a wonderful re-union, surely it is worth our while to investigate the good news of the gospel further. I hope you do so as you browse the articles here.