I never thought much about “preaching the good news.” This made sense to me. Of course, the Gospels would be good news. This is what I thought about the Bible as well, that it held wisdom and the love of God in the pages. I’ve also held the Bible in reverence and felt its rightful place was in the front of the sanctuary between special candles. After all, this is the word of God and it should not be disrespected, questioned, or tested.
My views of God have been similar. I’ve held on to a belief that God must be love, because love is good. If God is a loving God, then evil could not exist and therefore Satan couldn’t exist either. I chucked the idea of Satan out the window a long time ago. I’ve held God as a teddy bear- as a comfort for my pleasure and reassurance. Honestly, it never occurred to me to think otherwise… until reading Peter Gomes’ the Scandalous Gospel of Jesus.
“Good news to some will almost inevitably be bad news to others. In order that the gospel in the New Testament might be made as palatable as possible to as many people as possible, its rough edges have been shorn off and the radical edge of Jesus’ preaching has been replaced by a respectable middle, of which ‘niceness’ is not God” (pg. 31). Hmm. I think this is me. Every sermon I have preached so far has been “good news.” The message has ended on a good note and been mostly what people have wanted to hear. Is this what makes a sermon good? Agreement? Do people like a sermon, book, movie, or conversation because it affirms what they believe? Because it makes them feel good? I think so. But what is this really saying? I think, not much.
I have fallen into that camp of wanting to hear good news. I don’t listen to the “news” because I don’t want to hear it. I don’t often want to listen to others views. I like hearing people talk from my own perspective and love agreement. I’ve fallen into the comfort zone. I’ve shied away from conversations that make me uncomfortable and certainly haven’t preached anything other than good news. But this isn’t really going to get us anywhere… or get me anywhere.
I’ve heard that change occurs when there is an intolerance for the status quo. How can we ever get change if we are preaching to the status quo? We need to move beyond hearing what we want to hear and feeling good every Sunday. We won’t grow or move forward this way. We need to get more comfortable being uncomfortable- being challenged, and yes, even being wrong. It’s fascinating to me what we hold on to for the sake of being right. I’ve seen people hold on to devastating beliefs about themselves, because they would rather be right than be happy. What I mean about this is when someone realizes that they have lived their entire lives believing that they are not valuable or worthy. You’d think that would be an easy one to let go of, but no. People continue to hold on to it, because having their world view challenged is more terrifying than a life-limiting belief. Or we sacrifice love, happiness, freedom- all in the name of wanting to be right.
What if we could get really good at being wrong? What would that make possible? What if the people of Nazareth believed Jesus that their God was too small? Or that there was a bigger God? Wouldn’t that be the BEST news? What news are we discarding for the sake of being right?
What if Satan was back on the table? What if Satan held power in my not believing? Kind of sneaky, and brilliant approach. As Gomes suggests, “the temptations point out the fact that Satan usually appeals to us at the point where we feel ourselves spiritually strong, for where we think we are strong is not the place in which we invest our defensive energies” (pg. 33). Where do I feel most secure? This is a great question to investigate. Perhaps, I am blind to temptations there are hiding where I am not looking.
I don’t know what to make of all of this, but I do know I have been desperate for change. I’ve seen our third graders try to kill themselves. I know in my heart that we need to do life differently if our youngest generation doesn’t want to be a part of it. We are not going to get there feeling good. The good news isn’t always going to feel good. Perhaps we need to let go of something that hurts, in order for something to change. Perhaps the gold lies in others views, in being wrong, or in questioning the unquestionable.
What if bad news was good news? What if good news didn’t sound good at all? What if in fact the last will be first, and the first last?