In a world as ravaged as is ours by the bitter winds of hate and hate’s awful offspring, cruelty, we long for the sweetly perfumed airs of good news.
Not only is the terrain of the world largely barren of peace and hope, but even into our own homes come the rancid fumes of fear and the fetid stink of selfishness, suffocating us with clouds of despair. Families struggle and break apart, whole communities polarize and divide, and even churches bicker and split into fragments.
With such realities surrounding us and compelling us to either engage them or succumb to them, two questions arise. First, where can one turn for good news? It’s very hard to find good news that offsets the avalanche of bad news cascading into our lives all day long, every day. Much of it is due, no doubt, to our compulsive fascination and addiction to hearing and seeing bad news. Humanity seems to collectively find scandal and tragedy much more interesting and worthy of attention than it does good news as evidenced by our glut of (pseudo) reality shows and amusement over Hollywood stars’ misfortunes.
But there is good news in the world. The good news is that God loves you and that He loves you so much that He spent His own Son in order to draw you out of despair and into a living hope that cannot be overcome.
The second question follows the first one and assumes that we have answered it. The question is how can we know that the good news of the Gospel is indeed the very thing it claims to be: good news? I have known very intelligent people to look at the Good News of God’s love and laugh, claiming that it is overly simplistic and is ineffective in its assessment of the world’s condition. Some have said that it is little more than a crutch for those who simply can’t face life on their own and need something a little more.
But the Good News of Jesus turns such words on their heads. There is no other, nor has there ever been a philosophy or teaching in the world, that so thoroughly recognizes the tragic condition of the world, the corrupted nature of the human heart, and the awesome essence of God’s own holy and omnipotent benevolence all at the same time. Secular science says, for instance, that human beings are not spiritual creatures, but are only biological ones, just another link in a chain of accidental mutations that have (luckily) adapted to ever changing environments. So we are reduced to things no more morally advanced than frogs or tapeworms in a world where all things live according to the blind rules of natural selection.
Meanwhile, Eastern religions (and their Western protégés) make the claim that all humanity is good and that all things are god, or rather a god-force (this is called “pantheism”). Hardly capable of adequately explaining real evil, it leaves the human soul totally unprepared for such atrocities as genocide in Nazi Germany, Kosovo, Cambodia, or Kurdish Iraq (let alone the perpetual problems of poverty, corruption, oppression, and aggression in our own backyards).
Even the religion fueling radical terrorism today across so much of the world leaves one cold. It is partly right in recognizing that there is a law given by a divine Creator and that it is given to all of the human race. But it is totally wrong in thinking that we can achieve a holiness that is acceptable to the most Holy One of all apart from His divine work on the cross: no matter our best efforts, we will always fall below the required mark if we trust merely in our own abilities or sacrifices. And so its presumption has sown the seeds of destruction and heaped upon itself an even more contemptible unholiness.
But the Good News of Jesus fully recognizes the capacity for evil of men and women and yet does not resign us to despair while we wait for self-destruction. Nor does it white-wash the fence, pretending that evil is something less than evil. It faces it and stares it down with the power of the goodness of God: what we may plan for evil, God can turn towards good (from Genesis 50:20). This is in fact why the Good News of the Gospel (which means, “good news”) is such good news!
Even so, I suspect that the greatest source of disdain from Christianity’s critics is the frequent attempt to isolate individual claims of Christianity and apply them according to these other worldviews. An unfortunate mistake – for if one cannot conceive of a natural propensity for sin in the human being, then the idea of a Savior is irrelevant; if one cannot shed the image of God as an impersonal force, redemption (as in the Christian idea of reconciliation with God) is alien; and if one can only imagine God as punitive judge, then the ideas of “Heavenly Father” and “Good Shepherd” are unfathomable.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV).
Thus, for us to see the Good News of Jesus for what it is, the wisdom of God, then we must be willing to relax our grip on our preconceived notions of what the world is really like, what people are really capable of, and Who God really is.
“For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:19-25 ESV).
The Good News of Christ grants me peace within though the world may war without. The Good News of Christ gives me a well-spring of joy though sorrow may fill my cup. The Good News of Christ is a shelter of hope though storms of despair may hammer at my spirit. And the Good News of Christ is a balm of love and forgiveness though I may suffer cruelly from the hands of my enemies.
No wonder it seems like foolishness to someone who doesn’t yet know God personally … such a one does not know the boundless and amazing grace of an infinitely transcendent God who sees our world wracked with the pain of selfishness and sin. But He brings His grace to bear upon our woes and beckons us to release our fears and prejudices so that we might have life — real life that has no end. Let’s dare to trust Him. Let’s risk losing ourselves in Him. If we dare not, then we’ll lose in the end what we thought we had as it crumbles into nothingness. But if we do reach out for Him, we’ll find that He gives us far more than anything that we can lose as He daily gives us Himself.
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at [email protected]