Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Good News / Bad News

The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is a classic good news/bad news story. Joseph is his father's favorite -- that's good. But his brothers hate him -- that's bad. Joseph gets a special robe -- that's good. Because of the robe his brothers sell him into slavery -- that's bad. Joseph goes to work for Potiphar and gets put in charge of everything in the household -- that's good. Potiphar's wife tries to seduce him -- that's bad. Joseph resists her -- that's good. She falsely accuses him and gets him thrown in prison -- that's bad. In prison Joseph interprets a dream for the cupbearer, and they make an agreement for Joseph to get out of jail -- that's good. The cupbearer forgets the deal for two years -- that's bad.

On and on it goes -- back and forth -- good news and bad news. Stories like this...we want to jump to the end and see how it resolves. If it ends with good news, then we can put up with all the bad news. In fact, we can deal with just about any measure of bad as long as it ends with good. If things resolve well we can believe that all the disappointment, all the heartache, it all means something. There's a point to it all.

The whole Bible -- the whole of human history -- is a good news/bad news story. God created the heavens and the earth -- he spun this planet and this galaxy and at the climax of this creative genesis he made human beings in his own image -- that's good. But humans spurned God, defied his will, destroyed his community, chose sin and guilt and death -- that's bad. So God began again with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob -- a pretty motley crew. He gave them his law, his word, his presence -- that's good. But they forgot his word. They oppressed the poor and dismissed the weak. They chased after idols and were jealous and stubborn -- that's bad. So God sent his only Son so we could behold his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. When he came to earh, angels cried out, "Glory to God in the highest." That's good. But he came to his own, and his own did not receive him. He was rejected and betrayed and denied and abandoned and murdered. They put him in a tomb -- that's bad. But on the third day...well...that was good.

Ever since that third day, whatever bad news may enter your life -- it has no power to separate you from the love of God. Our story is a good news/bad news story. Life is filled with bad news -- pain, disappointment, failure, sickness, guilt, death. But life is also filled with good news. Nothing will ever separate us from the love of Christ? Not hardship or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword. Rather, in all those things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

This is the ultimate good news: I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor demons, nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.