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Bad news or good news?

July 2017

Sometimes the news confronting evangelicals seems particularly bad, even appalling. Regular readers may have felt that way when reading, in last month’s Evangelical Times, the article entitled ‘Shocking disclosures for Christian churches’ (p.11).

This article named names and reported on some serious sins and failings committed by previously respected Christians in leadership roles. In part, the motive for publishing it was a commitment to ET’s own ‘code of conduct’ (https://www.evangelical-times.org/about-et/code-of-conduct).

This code aims, among other things, to ‘resist threats, inducements or bias to influence, distort or suppress information’ (the prevalent temptation to sweep, in some unethical way, the serious sins of evangelicals under the carpet constitutes one such ‘inducement’).

Disclosure

When hearing disturbing reports like these, we, of course, first need to ask how we should respond. There is certainly truth in ‘least said, soonest mended’: we should always ask whether we really need to hear it — or, perhaps more searchingly, whether we need to tell others about it! After all, as Scripture says (for example, 1 Peter 4:8), love covers a multitude of sins.

Our priority should be, ‘How few people can I tell this to?’; not, ‘How many people can I pass it on to?’ ‘Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph’ (2 Samuel 1:20) was David’s reaction to the untimely deaths of Saul and Jonathan.

Sometimes, however — as with David’s lament — it is already too late; the matter is impossible to cover. In that case, a new reality has to be faced and dealt with. But, even then, there are things to bear in mind.

We should pray that God will strengthen and give wisdom to those in the churches who have to deal first-hand with ‘nightmare scenarios’ like these. We should also pray for ourselves. We need God’s help to react in a godly way.

Bad news doesn’t show us, by comparison, how good we are, but how bad we would be if the circumstances had been different and God’s restraints had been removed in our case — ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I!’.

Discernment

We need to be re-awakened to the reality of indwelling sin. We should view the serious sins of professing Christians as so much ‘small print’ that the devil never shows us when he faces us with his sinful enticements promising immediate but lawless pleasure. The Bible is realistic and honest about the nature of sin.

Finally, we must recall that, whatever the disappointments and griefs, the good news still far outweighs the bad. Judas Iscariot may have committed apostasy, but there were eleven disciples who didn’t; they may have been weak, but inwardly they remained faithful to Jesus. Ananias and Sapphira may have lied to the Holy Spirit, but there was also a vibrant and generous young church out there that gave itself sincerely to the Lord’s cause.

The first news from the devil to man, in the Garden of Eden, was bad news about God. It was fake news. But the news from God that followed on quickly — the promise of a Messiah to one day crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15) — was so good that we will forever struggle to comprehend its wonder. It is news as good as the goodness of God, and it will never change. Let’s never forget the good news!