The gospel is good news for all mankind. How is it then that so many of us make it sound like bad news?
Of course the gospel is unmitigated bad news for those who reject it. Jesus did not try to soft peddle that part of the message; in fact, He spoke of hell a whole lot of times. In spite of that, the central theme of His ministry was “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Although He never compromised, never hesitated to call sin by its name, the essence of His approach to people was tenderness: ” A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. ”
I find in myself a pronounced tendency to react to others according to their words and actions. With those who are gentle, kind and generous, I can also be gentle kind and generous. If that’s the best I can do, then I am doing no better than the general run of people around me. If I want to be known as a Christian I need to obey Jesus’ teaching; “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”
That goes way beyond my natural ability to relate to people and problems. There is something within me that wants to fight back. But what, or who, am I fighting? Are people my enemies? Or have they been captured by an enemy who is more powerful than either of us? If that is the case, and I fight back against the person, then I am adopting the enemy’s methods . . . and he has won.
There is a genuine warfare going on, a war between light and darkness. The enemy wants to keep this reality concealed from us so that we will use his weapons to defend ourselves when we are attacked. There is something within me that wants to do just that. I need to stop just a moment to realize what is going on and that I cannot advance the cause of the light by using the weapons of darkness.
Jesus said “Ye are the light of the world.” Nevertheless, we are not the source of that light. The light comes from God and is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit. Our calling is to reflect that light into some of the dark corners of the world around us. There is so much that is just plain wrong in the world around us, but we cannot set it right. Our attempts to do so play into the enemy’s hands. But if we can bring a ray of God’s light to bear on some of these dark situations it may help others see the true nature of these things. The more people who allow the light to shine into their lives, the brighter this world will become.
The vine of evil is very robust; we can hack away at the leaves and branches and feel that we have won a victory. Then we see that there are new tendrils growing up in a dozen different places and we have not weakened the vine in any way. But if we can uncover the roots and expose them to the light, the vine will wither. That is why the gospel is good news. Nothing else has any effect on that vine. If we attack the branches of evil with a machete, we are apt to do more harm to ourselves than to the vine. Victory comes when we can be a means of reflecting God’s light into the dark heart of that vine.