It was the prayer of my six year old that got me thinking. It was a prayer that she has been praying for awhile now. First…let me say that when my daughter prays, one can hardly keep from smiling at how simple, beautiful, and thankful she is for things adults fail to see or that they take for granted. It was a new line she inserted into her prayer that peaked my curiosity. Within that simple prayer she said, “God, thank you for Jesus dying on the cross for our sins.”
It was curious because neither my wife nor I tell our children what to pray. I believe that God takes pleasure in hearing the unadulterated hearts and prayers of little children, and it is through children that adults may learn better how to enter the Kingdom of God, as we become more like them in our faith.
Did my daughter thank God for Jesus dying on the cross for her sins on her own, or had someone told her that?
This all was happening at the same time I had been studying and asking questions about suffering in the New Testament. Why did Jesus suffer and die? Why did the disciples and the earliest followers of Jesus suffer and die? Why did they consider their suffering something that was joyful and ought to be celebrated? Why did they thank God that they were considered “worthy” of suffering for Jesus?
These questions puzzled and bothered me.
I continued to find an interesting pattern throughout my study. There was an inextricable link between suffering and proclaiming the “Good News.” This discovery sent me reeling.
What was so good about this Good News that anyone and everyone HAD to hear it? What news was so good that people were willing to sacrifice life and limb (literally) to get it out? And then, if I knew this Good News, what would it mean for me and how I orient my life? Would I be ready and willing to suffer just so people could hear this Good News? And if the Church knew of this Good News, would it change how we invest our time, money, energy, and effort?
Was this Good News as simple as my daughter had stated it? Was it simply that Jesus died for our sins? Was that the Good News?
To be honest, it sounds like OK news…for a cynic like me…and especially for the cynical 21st culture that we live in. What is really so good about that? And why ought I care? I look around and I don’t see any real difference in our country between those whose “sins have been forgiven” and everyone else. A guy “dying on a cross for my sins” is worthless to me…if that is where it ends.
But maybe it was just me.
I asked over 100 of my friends, “What is the Good News and why does it matter?” Of the nearly 30 responses I received, all but one essentially said the same thing, “The Good News is that Jesus died for our sins and those who believe in him will be forgiven.”
It wasn’t just my daughter…it is Christians in general. The most important thing we ought to know…we don’t.
Ought we not know that the Good News is both that Christ died for our sins and was buried and raised to life? Is not the Good News that we can join Christ in his death and resurrection by dying to our old selves and being made new each day? Is not the Good News that sin and death have been defeated once and for all and that we will share the same bodily resurrection as Christ that will never experience death again? Is not the Good News that the creation, which has been subjected to frustration and decay, will be liberated from this bondage to decay and renewed as God intended? Is not the Good News that Jesus is Lord over every authority and system and will one day bring justice and mercy as he rules his people with love and compassion?
This is good news! This is something we can get excited about! This is something I would suffer for to tell the world about!
But somehow…the Church must be introduced to this Good News AND it must inform, change, and shape who we are, what we do, how we think, and how we live. One of the best expositions on the Good News (or gospel) is 1 Corinthians 15…check it!
I guess the ongoing conversation that we need to have…or what I will be focusing on in a future blog…is why do we not know this Good News that we claim to believe in and how has not knowing it influenced how we think, act, and behave as Christians and the Church…and finally…how would the perception of the Church by the world actually change if this Good News actually permeated our thoughts, words, and actions.
I would appreciate hearing from all of you on this! I have many thoughts on this matter.