Bad news sells. Not sure if it has always been this way, but given the temperament of fallen man I’d say this is the direction leaned in. The wicked bent of our hearts tends to gravitate towards bad news; especially, if the news is associated with people we know and dislike. God has graciously allowed me to grow in this area. Most of the time my heart breaks even when my enemies find themselves in painful circumstances. There are times, however, when the temptation will be found lurking in the deep recesses of my heart; which leads me to immediate repentance. I thank God for the strength to do what is right even in this.
As a pastor, a husband and even as a father, I am continually confronted with this reality. Questions of “why?”; the tendency to think that this world has gone to “hell in a hand basket;” the creeping doubt that if there’s a God in heaven maybe He’s fallen asleep behind the wheel of the universe He created; or perhaps He is powerless to do anything about it.
The short answer for why we see evil in the world is not psychologically pleasing, but biblically speaking it’s the only answer that makes logical sense. The truth is that God has a sufficiently good reason for permitting the bad. The most glaring example of this in Scripture is found in the predetermined death of Jesus the Christ by the hands of evil men (cf. Matt 27.24-26; Acts 2.22-23).
I suppose there might be those who would try to argue such an event is an anomaly, and therefore, cannot be appealed to as normative (i.e. the normal way things happen or are intended to happen in this world). But again, I believe if we are willing to honestly study and reflect on what is taught in our Bible’s, we will see that God has a good reason for allowing bad or evil things to take place. Although, the crime against Jesus is by far the worst which has happened in human history (he alone is innocent of sin), this is not the only evil thing recorded in Scripture and yet seen as apart of God’s divine will (e.g. Gen 50.20; Job 1.8; 2.3).
Consider for instance the many case studies we are offered in the Bible. How many righteous people fell? How many of them were guilty of sinning against God? How many of them participated in evil acts? All of them, save one, the God-Man Jesus of Nazareth. Not one was found to be sinless. Why would God allow these individuals to commit evil? More importantly, why would God allow the people in their lives, the nations as a whole, or readers of His Word throughout the ages to see these wicked things?
Is it possible that God perfectly ordained such things in His divine plan to teach all who would listen that we are not to trust in man; but rather, God? Absolutely! As Isaiah 42:8 declares, “I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”
You see, God is jealous for His Namesake. He alone is to be the object of glory, honor, and praise. And while, God may have had other reasons that we may sufficiently add to these—the glorification of His Name is primary. Jesus understood how important this was (see John 5.19; Luke 22.42) as His longest recorded prayer clearly testifies (cf. John 17:1-5).
Our tendency as human beings is to trust in ourselves, rather than trusting in our Creator. Allowing His creatures to fall—to sin—offers an object lesson to us, as His creatures, that trusting in ourselves, our abilities, our intelligence, and our goodness is complete folly. By showing our hearts how weak we are to selfish lawlessness, we are then driven to our knees having had our deceptive pride broken in abject humility before Him (cf. 1John 2.1); thereby, teaching us to learn to be wholly dependent upon Him.
By the way this is a lifelong process.
Now this brings me back to my initial concern at the beginning of this post. Bad news sells, because as sinners we enjoy lopping it up. Our society is driven by a 24-hour news cycle. If you cannot find your fix on the cable networks or local television news broadcasts, then you may certainly find them on the net through a variety of sources in social media.
The majority of our daily news is filled with various wicked acts, gossip and slander. Rarely is a lot of time devoted to good news. This is understandable from secular sources, but as a minister I have a hard time reconciling this habit with Christian broadcasting. Many of my congregants tune into various programs under the guise of Christianity, but are found receiving the same garbage that is found in the sources I only previously mentioned. It is no wonder then that they are constantly fretting about the state of our world; the immoral condition of our country.
To illustrate allow me to highlight one thing I hear spoken of all the time on Christian radio and in Christian social media: “war and the rumors of war” (Matt 24.6; Mark 13.7; Luke 21.9). Russia’s coming, no wait it’s China! Don’t forget the North Koreans! Oh, you know nothing Isis and the Muslim radicals are going to kill us all! Such hysteria is ridiculous.
This fear mongering reminds me of a conversation that I had with my Systematic Theology professor at Nazarene Bible College. One of the discussion threads focused on the threat of nuclear war. I commented that nothing can happen apart from God permitting it, and that it was foolish on our part to be afraid. My professor kindly rebuked me, and I held my ground.
Am I saying that Christians should not speak of such things, that they shouldn’t be concerned? No, that is not what I am saying. But we should not be quibbling in fearful anticipation either. If we took the time to pay attention to the context of the passage that so many refer to as the source of why they are reporting what they are reporting (in this case I am speaking specifically of “wars and rumors of wars”), then we would notice that Jesus said: “See that you are not alarmed; do not be terrified” (Matt 24.6; Luke 21.9). Bad news is real. Bad news needs to be bathed in prayer. But bad news should not be our primary focus.
Christians ought to be concerned about sharing good news, but sadly many Christian news outlets are just as pessimistic as the secular media. They are just regurgitating the same gobbly-gook, and then slapping a Christian name on it. Our focus, as Christians, should be on highlighting the good things taking place under Jesus’ reign.
The Holy Spirit testifies that in Christ Jesus we are “more than conquerors” (Rom 8.37; also see 1Cor 15.57; 1John 4.4.). Jesus told his first century disciples, “I have overcome the world,” (John 16.33) and later he promises them they too will share it in the greatness of doing God’s work, which is a form of overcoming the impossibilities of a fallen world because of the Spirit of God within them (cf. John 14.12, 16-17).
We seemingly know so little of the heritage we have inherited from our Lord and from those who come before us. Within one generation the clarion call had gone out upsetting the masses with “Jesus is king” (Acts 17.6-7). And though Paul later testifies to Timothy, “difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self…rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power (2Tim 3.1-2a, 5a; HCSB), he immediately adds, “avoid these people!” (2Tim 3.5b). For eventually, Paul promises his fellow minister of the gospel that these opposers of the truth “…will not make further progress, for their lack of understanding will be clear to all…” (2Tim 3.9). And you know what? He was right.
The heretics and false professors of Timothy’s generation were eventually revealed for what they were and resisted. What was the result? The pagan Greco-Roman world eventually fell to the dominion of Christ’s church, and the gospel would continue to swell and grow like a yeast infected lump of dough.
Were there bad times in the past? Yes, very bad. But you know what? We are still benefiting from the fruit of God’s faithful people, and by and large the world looks much better, much brighter, because of Christianity.
Should bad news be reported? Yes, but Christians should season such things with the good news brought about by the light of the gospel. The world we live in is filled with the beautiful light of Jesus, though demonic forces would like us to think otherwise. In a nation filled with tens of thousands of believers, should our voice and optimistic faith in the power of God (Rom 1:16) not shine through? Question: “What happens to light when it enters a dark place? Does it cower in fear and say, ‘Oh no, the darkness is too great!’” No, the exact opposite takes place and it is about high time God’s people start acknowledging this truth. “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine…won’t let Satan snuff it out…I’m going to let it shine!”
1 All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).
2 Paying attention to the context is paramount to understanding what is written. The warning about “difficult times will come in the last days” was not a reference to the coming end of the world, but a period in time that Timothy would very soon be facing. As the Old Covenantal System was about to be abolished, many defectors and false professors and anti-Christ’s would be showing their ugly heads (e.g. 1John 2.18-19). The warning was for Timothy to avoid such people meaning that they would arise during his ministerial life. He was to resist them, teaching against such foolishness protecting the flock of Christ.
3 This post was inspired in part by an excellent article written by Gary DeMar entitled: “Some Good News on the Anti-LGBT Front,” February 8, 2018, https://garydemar.com/good-news-anti-lgbt-front/.