Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Good News and Bad News

I have good news and bad news.  Which would you like to hear first?

We have an original painting in our media room painted by our dear friend, Jane, picturing three guys waiting for something.  It is a fascinating piece, and Jane won't tell us what she was thinking when she painted it; so we are left to ponder a universe of possible meanings.  Anyway, when I see it I see three classic human responses to some future but imminent and also uncertain event.  One guy stares fixedly ahead with anxious eyes.  You see in his face a desire to look away, if for no other reason than to mitigate his stress level, but he can't bring himself to do it because somehow he believes he will better manage the coming disaster if he can prepare himself for it by watching it unfold.  Even though it is quite apparent to the observer his terror of anticipation is wreaking far more damage on the fearful man than any conceivable future event ever could, including death.  The second man reads a book as he waits.  Perhaps it's a book on seven things you need to know when....  But I doubt it.  This chap at least affects a sense of peace.  The third guy looks ahead as did the first person, but this one is smoking a cigarette.  As with the first, you sense he is anticipating something unpleasant about to happen; but unlike the first soul, this guy is shouting in his silence, "Bring it on!  Come on, give me your best shot!"  He waits with the alertness of a pugilist so he can be sure to hold the advantage over whatever menace is coming.  And if he can't, you believe he will fix it so he goes out with as many as possible.

Mind you, there is nothing in this picture to suggest any pending doom.  Everything appears quite innocuous.  One is pretty sure the only thing pending is the daily commute.  Indeed, this banality is corroborated by the shadow of a man standing in front of the scene but outside the view of the painting, cast over the pit where the three men are waiting.  From the shadow we know the unseen man is wearing an overcoat and a hat, and reading a newspaper.

Four men in this riveting scene are waiting for something.  It might be the 5:45 to the burbs, or it might be news--either good or bad, or as in the present case, both.  Which of the four persons are you?  Having met them through my mind's eye, which of them do you think would want the good news first, and which the bad?  And would their reasons be the same?  If they aren't--and I strongly suspect they aren't--will they be the same tomorrow, or the next day?  In many ways, human nature is like that mysterious anticipated thing in the painting: unpredictable in its continuity.

Well, I apologize to those who like to wait for desert because I'm going to give the good news first.  The good news is another person has chosen to serve and love Jesus; the person has entered into his salvation and there is great rejoicing both from me and from heaven.  What a beautiful thing it is to watch someone find true life.  God is good.

The the bad news is another witness to this glorious event has answered it with, "Hooray, another person's on our side!"  When I learned of this response to such good news, I became crestfallen.  Here's why.

Our world since the fall of humankind has been competitive.  It has partitioned itself up into a zillion us- and-thems.  I saw myself in this person's glee and wept inside.  It dawned on me I still do not see what Jesus accomplished for all of us on the cross with inestimable cost as being a great gift from a personal/infinite God longing to dwell together with His creation in order to love them forever in unending life; instead I see it as an argument to be won, a person to be added to the country club roster, or an advantage over an increasingly virulent opposition.  My concern is still more about my reputation, the club's reputation, the flock's survival, or my own glory.  Yet the world is populated by a humanity that wants deep down to just be loved and to love.  They don't realize this longing drives them to do all the abhorrent things they do--because all things done outside of God's kingdom are abhorrent because they are fundamentally the seeking of truth in a certain lie.  And I look for ways to win these souls over, not realizing such a motive only drives them further away--drives them away from the only hope any of us have for being sated by the living water flowing freely from our creator through His son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ--the very love we are desperate for.

So I make this public confession, and I ask forgiveness from whomever might be reading this.  Then I would ask them to look beyond my flawed motives and the faults of all those confessing the name of Christ to see God waiting with open and loving arms to hold them in His love and life forever.