Good News People

“Is there any good news?” a pastor once asked me. I was taken aback for a minute. “I don’t know of a church or a family that’s really doing great. Do you?” he continued. I did know some good news, as it turned out, but I was struck by his earnest hunger for something that wasn’t depressing. We all know some good news, but there are times we’re not thinking of it because our personal situation seems unbearable. And sometimes it is unbearable. The stories we see in the news today of cruel parents, loutish husbands, violent dictators and just plain local meanness often drag us down. Our near-instantaneous access to news of every sorrowful event in every place makes tragedy seem more imminent and common than it may be. 

I’ve seen TV stations try featuring one “good news” or “happy news” story during a broadcast. The result often looks like a slow news day with a camera crew showing us a policeman playing street ball with some kids or a new baby giraffe at the local zoo. Of course, they’re trying to make their newscast less overwhelmingly negative, but it looks to me like they’re whistling past the graveyard.

It’s a little different for believers. We know things don’t always go well, but we are convinced we have some answers. When we hear about the threat of war in the Middle East we know it’s serious, but instead of clucking our tongues or despairing we pray for those making decisions and those who will be at the pointy end of diplomacy. We see to missionary workers in that part of the world, grateful to have the resources and the plans to keep them out of harm’s way. We think of chaplains and pastors in military towns who will be offering real help to those who might deploy and the families they leave behind. Those are good news responses, gospel responses. 

Disaster relief has been the easiest good news story to track. No one rejoices when a hurricane or wildfire or tornado ravages a community, but neither do God’s people stand idly by, watching our neighbors suffer. The first thought of local churches is, “How can we help?” 

We see again and again churches housing people and feeding people and sharing the good news of salvation in Jesus. As this response begins, our brothers and sisters across the state, and across the country in many cases, are packing their gear in preparation to show up and help. The result is encouraging rather than discouraging; it is hope rather than despair; it is very often life-changing for those who earlier considered themselves victims.

People who staff children’s homes are good news people. Their work has to be difficult and discouraging at times. They deal with families at their neediest, children at their most vulnerable. If you’ve heard the stories of children removed from their homes by police or abandoned by their parents, you know the daily work of our child placement agencies. But what drives them? What gives them joy? What stories do they most enjoy telling? 

What I hear are stories of kids who are no longer homeless, or kids who have found a “forever home” with a family that loves them. These folks get excited when they tell of a kid or a parent who has believed in Christ. They know what darkness looks like, but they know that the darkness does not overwhelm the light. 

Some of my favorite good news people are volunteer staffers at pregnancy resource centers. They see tragic situations as well. While it is disheartening to hear the situations of young women who have been abused, deceived and neglected, they also see some of those women redeemed and joyful. They get to see families and grown children come out of impending tragedy. Their willingness to enter dreadful situations with love and hope bears fruit as God gives the increase. 

Pastors and church people are good news folk. We join together each week because our Lord was dead and is no longer dead. Our commission is to love our neighbors in ways that have eternal consequences. Our churches feed the hungry, clothe the naked and comfort the afflicted because we know that our neighbors are eternal souls, beloved of our God. That is an optimistic view of the world: that this present darkness will give way to eternal life for all who believe. That’s why we give our neighbors the good news of the gospel along with the temporal aid we provide. 

As I said, we know that bad things happen. We see the news like everyone else. We grieve at gravesides and in hospital waiting rooms. But we know that this is not the whole story, the last word. Our message is not that everything is rosy—far from that. Our message is that there is hope in this life and of the next life. 

Being good news people is quite apart from wealth and circumstances, though we share our wealth in awareness of circumstances. Those who see only external things—and we are often tempted to see things this way—are prone to despair in the midst of grievous events. But even when we grieve, we grieve as those who live in the hope of eternal life. That’s the good news that drives us.    

Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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