Good News or Bad News?
Is the message of the Bible good news or bad news? Often the physical book even describes itself as a ‘Good News’ Bible, and Christians often refer to the good news of the gospel message. But is it good?
Sometimes this feels a little ironic to me. When churches then go on to explain how to ‘become a Christian’ a person must meet certain criteria, I think it all starts to sound more like bad news! I was taught that to ‘be a Christian’ I must understand that Jesus and the Holy Spirit and God are all one, I must repent of my sin and ask for forgiveness, I must acknowledge that Jesus died for my sin, and ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This was all achieved by praying ‘the prayer’ which somehow encompassed all the above. Going forward, I should attend church, read my Bible every day, praying frequently—confessing my new sins and striving to live how God wanted me to live. Most difficult of all (in my view) I should constantly be looking for ways to tell other people how to be a Christian, encouraging them to undergo the same process. Anyone who did not meet the above criteria was trapped in their sin and doomed to hell and eternal torment. Very bad news indeed. Most of the people who I love do not fit into the rather narrow category above.
Yet, when I read the Bible (point seven above!) things seem a little different. Jesus said he came to show people who God is, and he accepted people before they had done any of the above. Sometimes he told a person they needed to change their life, or give away their money, or repent of something they were doing wrong—but this was always after they had come to him. There wasn’t a form to complete, or a waiting list; the disciples didn’t regulate who could approach (and when they tried to, Jesus told them off!) People simply came. People were simply accepted.
I also read that after they came, after they had been accepted, they generally changed, they often wanted to be different, better, people. But the changing, the wanting to be changed, was afterwards. It was not an entry criteria. And they tended to differ in what they actually believed, they had different views of theology (which is shown in the later books in the Bible, where we see them having arguments about things).
Several of the books in the Bible were written by Paul, and I’m still not sure what authority they should have (as I have discussed in previous blogs) but I do think his views are helpful today. One of his letters describes Jesus’s mission as reconciling people to God, and that a Christian’s mission is to continue this—to be an ambassador, helping people to be reconciled with God. I do not, personally, feel I should be telling people what they are doing wrong, or insisting that they believe certain things (like in the Trinity) or changing their behaviour. But I would like to tell them that God wants to accept them (right now, just as they are, warts and all!) I would like to remind them that God wants them to be reconciled with him, and that everything that’s wrong in their lives does not count any more. All the rest of it—how they personally live out that truth—is between them and God.
Perhaps this is good news. Perhaps this is what our message should be. What do you think? Good news or bad news?
Thank you for reading. My next blog will be more about our holiday in Italy at the beginning of August. Enjoy your day.
Love, Anne x