Bad News Christians

Jesus tells His followers to share the good news. Somewhere along the way some folks have gotten mixed up and decided this means to actually share the gospel (literally “good news”) as though it was bad news. It goes something like this: “People are really messed up and the Bible says it’s only going to get worse until Jesus comes back. So sit back, grit your teeth, and hold on tightly until the ride is over.” Hearing the Bible from this crowd, you would get the impression that Jesus told His people to hide out in caves rather than go out to be salt and light in the world.

Yet we are to proclaim good news, not bad news. You could argue that the bad news must come before the good news, and you would be right. The bad news is that we’re sinners in need of a Savior. The good news is that Jesus Christ is that Savior, and we can be saved by trusting in His sacrificial death for our salvation. But some of us want to be gospel grinches and try to turn the good news back into bad news by saying that the world is going to hell and there’s simply nothing anyone can do to stem the tide until Jesus returns. Shame on us—that is not the gospel! It is true that we cannot build Heaven on earth. But it is also true that we must be about the work of building God’s kingdom on earth.

In Jesus’ own ministry, what role did compassionate justice play? The Bible is not the least ambiguous:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)

A few days ago I sat with a friend who just returned from Africa. She told us of an area where thousands of orphans live on the street. On a regular basis, men from across the border will come with trucks and guns, round up these orphans, and kidnap them by the thousands. They are taken into a different country where they are sold as sex slaves, forced into terrorist militias, sacrificed by witch doctors, or killed so that drugs can be smuggled inside their corpses. According to Bad News Christians, that’s just how it’s got to be until Christ returns. But according to a handful of faithful Christians in that region, the people of God cannot rest while such things occur. This courageous remnant gives everything they have—often including their lives—to sneak into this other country and rescue the orphans. Thousands and thousands have been rescued. In this situation, who is sharing the gospel? The ones who devote their lives to enacting justice, or the ones who sit by and say this is just how it’s going to be until Jesus comes back for us? I’m pretty sure these kids would tell you that Jesus has come for them, and He did it through faithful Christians who see it as their mission to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.

The very next day after hearing of this situation in Africa, I was confronted by a Bad News Christian who said it’s not realistic to expect progress in the fight against injustice. I wonder what Bad News Christians do with the abundance of Bible passages like Micah 6:8. This verse says: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” This verse could not be more clear: If you turn your back on working for justice, you are outside the will of God. If you have no concern for the poor and oppressed, you are not following Jesus Christ. This was one of Jesus’ major beefs with religious people in His day. Want some evidence from Jesus’ own mouth? Read in full this passage which is a direct quote from Christ:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” Then he will answer them, saying, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-46)

To sit back, sigh, and despair that the world is getting worse and there’s nothing we can do about it is essentially to say that God is dead. It’s to say that Jesus is still in the grave. It’s to say that God is no longer alive and active in the world. It’s to say that God no longer cares for His creation or that He is powerless to care for it. It’s to say that the church is powerless.

If we try to preach the gospel while shrugging our shoulders at injustice, we preach a powerless message. Do we really think anyone will be attracted to an apathetic savior and his apathetic church? Jesus died for us… but He also rose for us. He breathed the Holy Spirit into His church. Christ is alive and active in the darkest corners of the world. And that’s good news.

Lord, Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

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Published in: on December 8, 2014 at 5:31 am  Comments (2)  
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