Monday, June 21, 2010

Good News, Bad News

Part of my daily routine is simple: check the news. I open my browser, select my news source and skim the headlines--I like to be informed by my local news source that I can trust (morning news, "Drive time" news, mid-day news, evening news and late night news). News can be breaking, hard, soft, canned, managed, slanted, spot or straight. News categories include general, national, science/tech, entertainment, environmental, political, religion, digestive, organic, earth-friendly, pregnancy, nutrition, diabetes . . . Our choices are no longer relegated to the newspaper or newsletters because we can get it via tv, internet, cell phone and all variations in between. Remember when we were young and thought "good news/bad news" were our only choices?

What if we gave bad news in a good way . . . ?

I like to be informed, but then what? I don't know what to do with this information. I really can't do anything about what I read, can I? Neil Postman wrote: "Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death . . . . [M]ost of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action." (from his book, "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business") Yet, I still check the news.

Perhaps we check the news because we are fearful of the self-destructive patterns of other human beings--how close to home? "Newspapers, news magazines, and television news shows contain constant reminders that most news is bad and seems to be getting worse. What happens on a national and worldwide scale, however, is simply the magnification of what is occurring on an individual level. As personal problems, animosities, and fears increase, so do their counterparts in society at large." (MacArthur, J. "Romans : Grace, Truth, and Redemption. MacArthur Bible studies . W Publishing Group: Nashville, 2000)

The biggest news right now is the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Those who remember the Exxon Valdez disaster are having flashbacks--especially those who were directly involved with that cleanup and are still paying the price for their efforts today. Bottom line: oil is toxic, to say nothing of it's other properties. One memory that troubles me is that I grew up in Houston and spent countless hours on the beaches of Galveston. I remember as a boy watching clumps of oil wash up on the beach. Sometimes oil would wash up overnight and then get covered with sand--you walk along the beach and step on a glob of oil, hidden underneath, and it would get all over you. We used to buy and carry extra cans of charcoal lighter fluid with to wash the junk off. The oil spills then did not get as much attention.

Perhaps we skim the news because we are looking for something unusually good, something so virtuous that headlines will just collapse under the weight of carrying the story. Good news makes up jump and do fist-pumps. We smile more and are perhaps a little more generous when we hear good news. Colors look brighter, food tastes better and nobody cares if it rains or shines when good news abounds.

If bad news were flood waters, Paul's letter to the Romans might be viewed as a guage for water levels. Imagine standing on the front porch of your house (it's easy to imagine one), checking to see how close the danger is to home. The first chapter of the book talks about people far removed from where we are, completed flooded over in evil. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness . . ." (1:18). Poor, unfortunate pagan souls. Glad it's not me!

Then, he reports on our religious neighbors, those a little closer to home and we realize the flood waters are much closer than we thought: "therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things." (2:1) Poor, unfortunate religious souls!

And if that were not enough, look at what Paul says to the Jews: "But if you bear the name, 'Jew' and rely upon the Law, and boast in God and know His will, and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law . . . You who boast in the Law, through your breaking of the Law, do you dishonor God?" (2:17-24) By the time we get to 3:23, we discover our front-porch viewpoint is already underwater!

Paul's epistle to the Romans is about the bad news, but it's message is foremost good news. Good news is the promise of God through His prophets in the holy scriptures, all pointing to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:2-3) who died on the cross to save mankind from sin. The person of the good news is the promise of the good news.

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