Thank you, Jesus, for the bad news of the gospel

November 13, 2015

In her November 10 post, “Taking the Merry out of Christmas: The Offense of the Gospel,” blogger Anne Kennedy reflects on two recent events that relate to the taking and giving of offense: the mostly fabricated indignation about Starbucks’s holiday-themed cups and the controversy at Yale relating to racism and free speech.

Before getting to her main point, she takes a well-deserved swipe at the Huffington Post’s “Christianity” section. Referring to the pastor who created the original viral video about Starbucks, she writes:

His chief offense, as I can tell from reading this article in Huffpo, is, and it should be predicated with ‘shut up stupid Christians’, is that he is an ordinary beefy American who is ruining the gospel, which Huffpo knows all about, shut up shut up shut up.

How curious, I thought to myself, that Huffpo believes the gathering up of offense is a Good Thing–you can see it all up and down their page–but as soon as someone who might be identified as a Christian considers it, it becomes instantaneously a Bad Thing.

I like this:

I think the true offense, and why Christians must, absolutely, be constantly told to Shut Up, is because it is the Christian’s job to reveal and speak about the very dire reality of humanity’s true offense. Offense is a problem, but it’s not ours to take. It is God’s to measure and judge. We offend him, every single tiny second. Our sin is a stench rising up in his nostril and sometime he will have enough and come and destroy the offender. If you haven’t flung yourself on his mercy before that you will find all your angers and minute micro aggressions have brought you to a place eternally perishing. The Christian’s job isn’t to take offense, it is to announce the offense of the sinner and plead with the sinner to repent. Starbucks has a lovely, carefully crafted little pagan deity on its cheerful red cup, a cup that pours out coffee to a humanity spiraling into the depths of depravity and sin. That young lady, screaming her rage, later cupping her warm coffee and scrolling down her expensive handheld device, is a sinner in need of mercy from God. She is the offender, not the offended.

Christians do have a purpose in this dark time, but it’s not spread a message of peace and love. Not initially. It’s to say to the person who is gathering their threads of offense and weaving them into a warm, cozy blanket of offense, “Stop It.” And that is the best, most sure way to offend everyone that I can think of.

As she rightly points out, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ—as opposed, for example, to the lesser gospel I blogged about on Wednesday—begins with bad news. In a vain effort to grow our churches at the expense of the truth, we pastors often try to gloss over this bad news.

But you know what I’ve discovered in my own life? Even this bad news, when you let it sink into your bones, is incredibly good news: What a relief to know—apart from God’s grace, left to my own devices—what a hopeless sinner I am! At last I see there’s a reason I struggle like this! There’s actually a reason, as St. Paul says, that “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”

Years ago, I heard an interview with actress Patty Duke, who lived for years with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. She said she was so relieved when her doctor finally told her that something really was wrong with her, and that this problem had a name.

Humanity’s main problem has a name, too—sin. Left untreated, it will destroy us and people we love, both now and for eternity.

When you realize the “very dire reality of humanity’s true offense”—and your own—that all you can do, as Kennedy says, is to “fling yourself on God’s mercies” and cry out, “Help me, Jesus,” that is a wonderful place to be!  Because that’s the place at which God’s all-sufficient grace meets you.

Thank you, Jesus, for this bad news!

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