In our day and age, it’s far more inviting to talk with people about the positive benefits of following Jesus rather than the negative consequences of rejecting Him. We much prefer the good news to the bad, comfort to discomfort, and mercy to judgment.
Standing on a street corner with a bullhorn shouting to people that they are going to hell unless they turn to Christ tends not to bode well. Somewhere along the line, some Christians have missed the part about how our speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6), and how we are to respond with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
My personality fits better with the gentle approach, but the older I get the more I’m learning that gentleness doesn’t have to mean “soft.” I can gently and respectfully talk with someone about Jesus, but that doesn’t mean I have to shy away from presenting truth. In fact, one of the most respectful things I could possibly do is talk with someone about the consequences of our sin and how we don’t want a Christ-less eternity.
The problem is that not everybody shares the same concept of truth. If someone is a secular humanist, who doesn’t believe in a universal Moral Law or a personal Power behind that Moral Law, he is not losing sleep over whether or not he has broken the law and put himself at odds with that personal Power. It’s hard to convince someone she needs saving when she doesn’t consider herself needing to be saved. If you don’t believe you’re sick, you’re not going to listen to the doctor. If you don’t believe the bad news, you’re not going to search for the Good News.
Herein lies the reason the Good News is called good. It is good, because it gives us a way out of the bad. The bad news is bad, because it takes us away from the good. The truth of the matter is that this personal Power behind the universal Moral Law is, what C. S. Lewis called, the “Something Behind,” the God who created and ordered the universe and all that is within. He created us to be like Him, meaning we can think, respond, love, and choose—or not choose—to be in a relationship with Him. In His ordering of the universe, He established a right path leading to goodness, but we can also create our own path that eventually leads to pain and death. The choice is ours.
When we realize that we have chosen the wrong path (and all of us have, Romans 3:23), then we begin to understand the hope of the Gospel (Good News of Jesus). Jesus met the demands of the Moral Law, for He never strayed off the path that leads to goodness. He is God in the flesh who saves us from the consequences of our own path, which is eternal separation from God. In other words, not until we understand the bad news, that we have sinned and the price is death (Romans 6:23), will we be open to receiving the Good News that “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring [us] to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
If you stop to think about it, the claims of Christianity are quite terrifying and comforting all at the same time. When we face the brutal fact that we are sinners and our position is wholly desperate, it is terrifying to think of the eternal consequences for our wrongdoing. But there is also great comfort in knowing we have a loving, personal God who has provided the way out through Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).
The Christian message does not begin in comfort; it begins in dismay, and we won’t be able to receive God’s comfort until we face our dismay. As C. S. Lewis wrote, “In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair” (Mere Christianity, 25).
My prayer is that you will look for truth more than comfort and find your comfort in the truth. God is our ultimate comfort, but He can also be the supreme terror. Which of those you receive is entirely up to you. I suggest you choose wisely.