WHEN THE BAD NEWS IS THE GOOD NEWS
Which do you like to hear first: the good news or the bad news? Personally, I prefer to just skip the bad news and go straight to the good news. I am not sure what it is about me (maybe all of us) that makes me operate that way. I guess it is because I don’t want the bad news to be true and not knowing lets me live like it’s not true.
First the Bad News
It was that way with my Type 2 Diabetes. I knew it was coming – it’s all over both sides of my family. I’m as genetically predispositioned to it as a dog is to eating chicken nuggets; it was going to happen. But there was a time when I preferred to live with the symptoms of it rather than know the cause. The cause was too much to handle. I would find a way to live with the discomfort. The problem with that strategy was that the symptoms got worse and harder to live with. Eventually I had to hear what I didn’t want to hear: the bad news that I am a diabetic.
Sometimes the Bad New Becomes Good News
But in that moment of acknowledgement, the bad news became good news. Not that being a diabetic is good news. Maybe it’s better to say that the bad news was wrapped up in good news. It was wrapped in the good news of: “We know what the problem is.” It was wrapped in the good news of: “There is a way to deal with this.” Yes, there would be life changes, new ways of thinking, new choices to make. But the Diabetes does not need to overcome me. I do not have to live with the symptoms.
The Bad News / Good News in Romans
And that is why Romans starts with the Bad News. It’s bad news that we desperately fight to deny. We say we know we are sinners, but we don’t acknowledge the ugliness of our sin at our deepest levels; just like I did not want to acknowledge at a deep, life-changing level that I was diabetic until the doctor said it out loud. But you cannot truly get to the good news until you accept the bad news at a deep level. Our sins are horrible, ugly, destructive to people around us and our own souls. There is no excuse for them. There is nothing that makes one sin “not so bad.” You and I are morally and spiritually wretched. That is the true bad news. It is exactly where Paul starts Romans so he can wrap it in the Good News.
Once we acknowledge that the bad is true, we hear the message that there is a way to deal with it. We do not have to live overcome by the symptoms of our wretchedness. This is why the gospel is just as important for Christians as non-Christians. The good news is not just about being saved when we die, it is about being saved while we live.
Try embracing your wretchedness. Own that your gossip, deceit, greed, arrogance, condescension, pettiness, out of control anger, or whatever your core issues, are every bit as bad and ugly as Paul says in Romans 1-3. Then watch Paul turn a corner and wrap that bad news in the gospel.