The Gospel is Bad News Before It Is Good News…


Consider these words from Presbyterian minister and author, Frederick Buechner, from his book Telling the Truth: the Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale:

The Gospel is bad news before it is good news.  It is the news that man is a sinner, to use the old word, that he is evil in the imagination of his heart, that when he looks in the mirror all in a lather what he sees is at least eight parts chicken, phony, slob.  That is the tradegy.  But it is also the news that he is loved anyway, cherished, forgiven, bleeding to be sure, but also bled for.  That is comedy.  And yet, forgiven when the very mark and substance of his sin and of his slobbery is that he keeps turning down the love and forgiveness because he either doesnn’t believe them or doesn’t want them or just doesn’t give a damn?  In answer, the news of the Gospel is that extraordinary things happen.  Henry Ward Beecher cheats on his wife, his God, himself, but manages to keep on bringing the Gospel to life for people anyway, maybe even for himself.  Lear goes berserk on a heath but comes out of it for a few brief hours every inch a king.  Zaccheus climbs up a sycamore tree a crook and climbs down a saint.  Paul sets out a hatchet man for the Pharisees and comes back a fool for Christ.  It is impossible for anybody to leave behind the darkness of the world he carries on his back like a snail, but for God all things are possible.  That is fairy tale.  All together they are the truth.

And again from chapter 1:

A particular truth can be stated in words — that life is better than death and love than hate, that there is a god or is not, that light travels faster than sound and cancer can sometimes be cured if you discover it in time.  But truth itself is another matter, the truth that Pilate asked for, tired and bored and depressed by his long day.  Truth itself cannot be stated.  Truth simply is, and is what is, the good with the bad, the joy with the despair, the presence and absence of God, the swollen eye, the bird pecking the cobbles for crumbs.  Before it is a word, the Gospel that is truth is silence, a pregnant silence in its ninth month, and in answer to Pilate’s question, Jesus keeps silent, even with his hands tied behind him manages somehow to hold silence out like a terrible gift.

In an open forum, what does this mean?  Is there truth in his words?  What does this mean as we share the truth of the Gospel with others?

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About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

2 responses to “The Gospel is Bad News Before It Is Good News…

  • gayandevangelical

    I agree with several things he says: the mercy of God must be presented as free and in terms of man’s sin. A free gift of God without stating why a man needs it in the first place doesn’t do anyone any good.

    However, I would make a bit more of a distinction than he does with law and gospel. In Luke 24, we’re supposed to proclaim repentance for sin (the Law) AND the forgiveness of sins in Christ (the gospel). The Law points out our sin and the gospel is the balm Christ gives for that sin. That is not exactly damaging to his point per se, but I think it’s a useful distinction that if not observed, creates legalism pretty quickly.

  • Aaron

    I see your point. For me it is like trying to separate Ginger Rogers from Fred Astaire as they dance. It is obvious who is who, but they work together in such an intimate and flawless way it is really impossible to separate them and keep the same meaning to their dance.

    What I really appreciate is the idea of the Gospel being heard in silence. This has been my experience lately, hearing the Gospel chiming out above the muddle of my daily life. I think it is also the stunned silence that comes with a full realization of what the Gospel message really is in light of the ‘bad news’ of the Law.

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