We all know the saying, “I have good news and I have bad news – which do you want to hear first?” It has run the gamut from being a serious question to becoming the opening line of jokes:
Patient: What’s the good news?
Doctor: The good news is that the tests you took showed that you have 24 hours to live.
Patient: That’s the good news? What’s the bad news?
Doctor: The bad news is that I forgot to call you yesterday!
It has even become the basis for psychological studies – seriously: “Do You Want the Good News or Bad News First? The Nature and Consequences of News Order Choices” (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, March 2014, vol. 40). I did not read nor am I recommending this abstract for reading – it just shows how much a part of our culture the question has become.
Which got me thinking. As Christians, we have Good News. It is really not just good news, it is great news. The best news. And as Christians we often have a tendency to want to tell people the Good News and not the bad when we talk about Jesus. But in our culture today, I wonder if it is not a big mistake to skip the bad news to go straight to the Good News.
We live in a culture that seems to have tolerance as perhaps its highest value. One in which there does not seem to be a right or a wrong – except, perhaps the wrong of being intolerant. Everyone can do whatever they want and we should just accept them.
But when there is no right and wrong, when there is no fear of judgement, when there is no bad news – how can there be Good News? Last week I was speaking with our 8th grade students about this and gave them the example of my wife. She was diagnosed with cancer last fall. The doctors used mammograms, ultrasounds, x-rays, biopsies and even MRI’s to determine that she had cancer and the severity of it. They went to great extremes to prove the bad news – then they suggested the treatment options of surgery and radiation therapy.
How many people would go through surgery and radiation therapy unless they were convinced that they had a need for it? What if a doctor had just told my wife that she needed surgery without first proving to her that she had a very dangerous, deadly disease? Would the modern wonders of surgery and radiation sound like good news? Or would it just sound like craziness?
I often think that when we present the Good News to people we may sound crazy to them because we have not first persuaded them of the bad news. I believe we should learn to help people see that they have a problem before we present the solution to them. And to do it in a way that makes sense to them from their view of the world – like Paul when he was in Athens (see Acts 17:16-34). We must help them understand that all of us have a serious problem that requires a radical cure.
First the bad news, then the good news.
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