We’ve all heard it, I have some good news and some bad news. Sometimes it’s said in jest, sometimes it can be very serious. Many times it’s a way for someone to deliver news or information that they don’t really want to.
Unless you are part of the Adams family delivering bad news, or sad news, or difficult information is just not fun. Many times when bad news of any form is delivered the messenger gets the blame, and no one wants to take the blame. Plus it’s just plain hard to watch a persons face fall when they have to hear something difficult.
I hate bad news I hate getting it, I hate delivering it. Recently I had to deliver some bad news to my oldest daughter. It seems that the family Christmas dinner that is usually scheduled for the Sunday after Thanksgiving was moved up to the Sunday before Thanksgiving this year. It was bad news because she really was looking forward to going to Alive with the church we attend. Having to tell her she couldn’t was a bummer.
Telling my kid she can’t go to youth convention is one thing, it’s sad, she gets angry, we deal with it. The thing that I am thinking about when it comes to bad news is the kind that a Christ follower must bring to people who don’t have a relationship with God, or that a pastor needs to bring to a congregation. The kind of news that holds up the tuff parts of scripture, the messy ones, the ones that don’t show as much of the grace, love and mercy of God as they do the justice, instruction, and correction side.
I find myself walking some interesting lines these days. As a Christ Follower who believes the Bible is more than just a good read, or a set of philosophical, moral, or religious teachings. The words that I ascribe to the Bible are Truth and History. Sure there are areas that I am willing to look at on a different level. Looking at the creation account I can see loads of room for the idea of Day Age, and even dare I say it some form of Theistic Evolution. The point for me when it comes to Genesis and the creation account has much less to do with literal, figurative, or poetic, as it does truth. The truth is no one knows. The truth is God created I really don’t care how just the fact that it happened because GOD. Because God. Who cares how and why does it matter. But I digress.
The line I find myself walking is one that every Christian Leader worth his or her salt should walk. There is a balancing act in scripture. Some in the scholarly world would talk about old covenant and new covenant. A difference between the Old Testament God who on first read can seem angry, vindictive, and prejudice, and the New Testament Jesus who’s ideas of love, grace, mercy and forgiveness don’t really line up. How can those two personalities be reconciled.
Which brings me to the jumping off point for this post.
Within three days, Pharaoh will lift your head and remove it from you. He will impale your body on a tree and vultures will swoop down and eat the flesh from your bones. Gen 40:19 (The Voice)
Joseph has the whole good news bad news thing going on in this particular account. He just got done telling Pharaoh’s Cup Bearer the good news. He was going to be restored to his position, he was going to get out of Jail. Things were looking up in his world. I wonder at what the Baker must have thought at this point. His buddy was about to be set free, not only that but he was going to be given his old job back. I’m guessing he may have had some excitement when he told his dream. Some anticipation that hey cool it’s good news. But Joseph didn’t have any good news to give him. He had to deliver the bad news. To tell the guy that things just weren’t going to be working out for him.
This is the same line that Christ Followers walk when it comes to God’s Word. It’s the line that pastors walk when the come to those difficult parts of the Old Testament. It’s the line that many people like to ignore. Many like to come down on one side or the other. Some churches embrace a world view that is decidedly non-inclusive. They use Old Testament Law to alienate, dissociate, or excommunicate anyone that doesn’t measure up, forgetting that no one ever did measure up, even the guy that was known as being a man after God’s own heart, didn’t measure up, breaking more than one of the big ten in the process. Equally disconcerting is the other side, the side that uses grace, mercy and forgiveness found in the New Testament as an excuse, a way to make following Christ, easy. Tolerance becomes the all important word here. Many times to the point of throwing away any semblance of living a life that is pleasing to God. As a person that has preached many sermons I can tell you, it’s a lot more fun to preach the cheerleader sermons, the ones about how Great God is, how full of love he is, how much he wants to bless his people. It’s fun to watch people in worship, it can be an incredible ego boost to see people respond to a message in large numbers, and it’s so much easier to get this to happen when we stick to the good parts. It’s hard to wrestle the Old Testament God into submission, so why do so many leaders try.
Joseph had to deliver the bad news and he did. I wonder if we are willing to do the same. I don’t think God is all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns, nor do I think that God is all thunder, and fire, and wind. I think we try to hard. I know I do. How do you make God accessible to people who don’t measure up to the Old Testament standard. The one that they see so many leaders today push. How do you make God accessible to the people who have bought into the whole I’m okay you’re okay God is there to bless you he loves you?
Joseph holds the key. It was Joseph’s job to deliver the message. That’s what he did. He delivered the good news, he delivered the bad news, he left God to do the rest. I think that’s the key. We can’t wrestle the God of the Old Testament into submission, and we can’t force Levitical standards that no one could live up to into Jesus teachings. Paul wrote to the Galatians about this whole thing. For the whole law comes down to this one instruction:”Love your neighbor as yourself. Gal 5:14 (The Voice)
As a Christ Follower it’s my job to speak the truth, with love, compassion and care. To share the cool gooshy parts of scripture and the sharp angry parts of scripture. Then step back and let God take care of the rest.