Humans and history both grow slowly.  We expect people to show up at our church doors fully transformed and holy before they can be welcomed in. But metanoeite, or change of consciousness, can only come with time. Patience is the very shape of love. Without it, religion is merely about enforcing laws and requirements. Without an evolutionary worldview, Christianity does not really understand, much less foster, growth or change. Nor does it know how to respect and support where history is heading.
Anything called “Good News” needs to reveal a universal pattern that can be relied upon, not just clannish or tribal patterns that might be true on occasion. This is probably why Christianity’s break with Judaism was inevitable, although never intended by either Jesus or Paul. Both Jesus and Paul were good Jews who thought they were reforming Judaism. By the early second century, Christians were already calling themselves “catholics” or “the universals.” At the front of their consciousness was a belief that God is leading all of history somewhere larger and broader and better for everyone. Christianity cannot be bound by ethnicity or nationality. This puts it in essential conflict with any group that wants to domesticate the message for its own “patriotic” purposes.
Without a universal story line that offers grace and caring for all of creation, Jesus is always kept small and seemingly inept. God’s care must be toward all creatures; otherwise, God ends up not being very caring at all, which makes things like water, trees, animals—and other peoples—seem accidental, trivial, or disposable. But grace is not a late arrival in history, an occasional add-on for a handful of humans. God’s grace and life did not just appear a couple thousand years ago when Jesus came, and his story was told through the Gospels. God’s grace cannot be a random solution doled out to the few and the virtuous—or it would hardly be grace at all! (See Ephesians 2:7-10 if you want the radical meaning of grace summed up in three succinct verses.)
The church’s role is to change the world through the life and love of Jesus Christ. The government’s role is to serve the common good by protecting justice and peace, rewarding good behavior while restraining bad behavior (Romans 13). When that role is undermined by political leadership, faith leaders must stand up and speak out. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.” 
.. I. WE BELIEVE each human being is made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). That image and likeness confers a divinely decreed dignity, worth, and God-given equality to all of us as children of the one God who is the Creator of all things. Racial bigotry is a brutal denial of the image of God (the imago dei) in some of the children of God
.. III. WE BELIEVE how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
.. God calls us to protect and seek justice for those who are poor and vulnerable, and our treatment of people who are “oppressed,” “strangers,” “outsiders,” or otherwise considered “marginal” is a test of our relationship to God, who made us all equal in divine dignity and love. Our proclamation of the lordship of Jesus Christ is at stake in our solidarity with the most vulnerable. If our gospel is not “good news to the poor,” it is not the gospel of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18).
The primary way Christians imitate God-for-us is by bearing judgement for others.
Don’t you see- that’s how this is good news.
It’s us. We’re the good news.
We’re the good news of God’s judgement. We’re the followers of Jesus Christ who, like Jesus Christ, mimic his willingness to bear the judgement of God on behalf of the guilty.
We’re the good news in this word of God’s judgement.
In a world sin-sick with judging and judging and judging, indicting and scapegoating and recriminating and casting blame- we’re the good news God has made in the world
.. We who are baptized and believing, we who are saved and sanctified- we who should be last under God’s judgement thrust ourselves to the front of the line and, like Jesus Christ, say “Me first.”
Rather than judge we put ourselves before the Judgement Seat.
Rather than condemning and critiquing, we confess.
We bear judgement rather than cast it.
We listen to the guilty. We never stand self-righteously at a distance from them. We never forget that ‘there but for the grace of God’ we’d be just like them, and that them not us, them- the ungodly, are the ones for whom God died.
.. We confess: our own sinfulness and guilt, our own racism and violence and pettiness, our own apathy and infidelity and failures to follow.
Knowing that there have been plenty of times we’ve seen Jesus thirsty and not given him a drink, plenty of times we’ve seen Jesus an immigrant and not welcomed him.
.. We bear judgement rather than cast it.
Because we know we can come before God’s Judgement Seat expecting to hear the first words spoken when God came to us: “Do not be afraid.”
We’re the good news in this word of God’s Judgement.
.. Stalker, that dark, dystopian sci-fi flick from the ’70’s about a Room to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secret is hid…” it’s a disturbing, unsettling, thought-provoking film.
It received hundreds of positive reviews.
It helped inspire HBO’s West World.
The British Film Institute ranks it #29 on its list of the 50 Greatest Films of All Time.
It’s a good movie.
But you’d never call it good news.
You’d never call it good news.
Not unless the cast included a few more characters, people who thrust the terrified Writer and Philosopher aside at the threshold into the Room and said to them “Me first.”
On any given day, the number of people worldwide living in extreme poverty:
A.) Rises by 5,000, because of climate change, food shortages and endemic corruption.
B.) Stays about the same.
C.) Drops by 250,000.
.. Just since 1990, more than 100 million children’s lives have been saved through vaccinations, breast-feeding promotion, diarrhea treatment and more. If just about the worst thing that can happen is for a parent to lose a child, that’s only half as likely today as in 1990.
.. When I began writing about global poverty in the early 1980s, more than 40 percent of all humans were living in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 10 percent are. By 2030 it looks as if just 3 or 4 percent will be.
.. Oxfam calculated this month that just eight rich men own as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.
A recent survey asked “All things considered, do you think the world is getting better or worse, or neither getting better nor worse?”. In Sweden 10% thought things are getting better, in the US they were only 6%, and in Germany only 4%. Very few people think that the world is getting better.
What is the evidence that we need to consider when answering this question? The question is about how the world has changed and so we must take a historical perspective. And the question is about the world as a whole and the answer must therefore consider everybody. The answer must consider the history of global living conditions – a history of everyone.
“If it bleeds, it leads” isn’t a phrase coined by some cut-throat tabloid editor. It’s a potent truth that lies at the heart of the modern day media machine. It’s time for some balance. That’s why our team at Future Crunch spent the year gathering good news stories you probably didn’t hear about, and sent them out in our fortnightly newsletter.
Here’s our full list for 2016…
- Some of the biggest conservation successes in generation
- Huge strides forward for global health
- Political and economic progress in many parts of the world
- We finally started responding seriously to the climate change emergency
- The world got less violent
- Signs of hope for a life-sustaining economy
- Endangered animals got a some well-deserved breaks
- The world got more generous
A megachurch pastor’s search for a more forgiving faith.