As my friend Ted sipped his coffee, he told me about growing up in church. As a teenager he opted out. I asked why.
“Well,” he said, “I got the sense it was all about rules.” I told him I was sorry, and that for me, it had never been about rules.
“So what was it about?”
“I suppose I always felt that at the heart of church, whatever its failings, was good news.”
That was a surprise to him.
So what is this good news? If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you probably know “Jesus” as the right answer. But the why and how of Jesus Christ as good news can be much harder to articulate.
Here are seven ways that Jesus has been good news in my life.
Do you have hope? Not just hope to get through your midterms. Not even hope for a brilliant career. But hope about life, the universe, and everything else?
Not many people do these days.
But I have hope—and, if you are a follower of Jesus, you do too.
Sometimes this hope wears a little thin. Sometimes it seems like wishful thinking. I know. Then I go back to the resurrection.
Jesus rose from the dead, and the world was changed forever. Death and decay are no longer the end.
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There is hope because Jesus is the bringer of life and of renewal. Paul explains,
[A]ll the broken pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death. (Colossians 1:19, The Message).
When parents comfort a frightened child by saying, “Everything’s going to be OK,” are they lying? They really don’t know what will happen. But when Jesus promises, “Everything’s going to be OK,” he can say it with authority, as the one who overcomes death.
The original motto of McMaster University (in Greek) is “In Christ all things hold together.” It’s actually a great motto for a university: Jesus Christ is the unifying reality behind psychology, history, physics, medicine, literature, and everything else.
Although it’s a little whimsical, I like to think of Jesus, the Logos or Word of God, as the -logy of all disciplines. Without something to unify them, universities are more accurately described as polyversities, with every discipline its own atomized, autonomous self.
There are many days for me, and I’m sure for you as well, when the world seems to be chaotic. The chaos may be global, as with the climate emergency. Or it may be caused by personal pain, sickness, and struggle.
Environmental ethicist responds: Facing the climate crisis as followers of Christ
Whatever it is, I remind myself that, despite appearances, there is a love that holds everything with an invisible coherence. And the name of that love is Jesus. That gives me courage.
My friend Nicky was trying to understand Christian faith. At one Christian gathering, she heard people singing that “Jesus gave his life for me.” She told me later, “I had no idea what it meant, but all the same, it was deeply moving.”
The idea of someone “dying for me” is indeed moving. But when I understand who that someone was, and why they died, it is a lot more.
Meditation on Christ’s death: He was all dead
The older I get, the more I understand how fundamentally resistant I am to doing the will of God. I am deeply addicted to doing what I want to do—the essence of sin. Indeed, I know that if I were a holy God, I would definitely send me to hell.
But I will not go to hell. Why? Not because I expect to achieve 100% holiness any time soon (and God is not holding his breath). Simply because Jesus Christ died for sinners, including me. What a relief! What freedom! What good news!
The question of “what is human?” haunts our culture. Maybe it is because in the West, we have lost any sense of an overarching reality to help us make sense of things.
In Jim Carrey’s movie, Man on the Moon, he complains to his girlfriend, “You don’t know the real me.” To which she gently replies, “There is no real you.”
What if there is no real me?
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A friend of mine was an instructor in her university’s Writing Centre. One day, a student came to consult her about a first-year philosophy paper on the topic, “Who am I?”
“The problem,” the student confided, “is that I really don’t know who I am. I am one person with my parents, another with my friends, and yet another with my professors.”
My friend listened, and then said, “I know exactly what you mean. But for me, I find all those different selves come together in my relationship with God.”
How does Jesus offer integration? He loves me in all my varied personae. Jesus invites me to come to him with my whole self, every part.
Even better, as I walk with him day by day, I have the sense that he is slowly leading me to integrate all those selves into a single person. That’s such a gift.
This year was a year of big numbers for me: twenty-five years living in Hamilton, Ontario. Fifty years married. I turned seventy-five. That’s 150 all together.
How much longer do I have? My wife and I have made our wills, bought our grave plot, planned our funerals, and talked to a funeral director about coffins. Fun stuff, eh?
But of course death is not the prerogative of the over-70s. You are fortunate indeed if you have not yet been stopped in your tracks by the death of a peer.
Doubt in pain: Can my faith in Jesus survive my suffering?
There is a wonderful line in the 1563 Heidelberg Catechism that has nourished me through various hospital stays and surgeries in recent years:
Question: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
Answer: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
In life and in death, I belong to Jesus Christ.
We all long to belong, don’t we? Our relationships inevitably come with varying degrees of strength and constancy. But even our best belongings are only a shadow of what it means to belong to Jesus Christ. No matter what comes, he will never abandon or reject.
One website tells me,
“A life coach is a type of wellness professional who helps people make progress in their lives in order to attain greater fulfillment. Life coaches aid their clients in improving their relationships, careers, and day-to-day lives.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t need a life coach?
Being a disciple of Jesus means I have put my life into his hands. There, I learn from him who I am, what my life is for, and what I was made to do.
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His wisdom and love have for decades guided me in my “relationships, career, and day-to-day life.” As my creator, he knows me better than any human life coach. Often his direction has surprised me.
Has he given me “greater fulfillment”? Well, not always. Taking up your cross is not terribly fulfilling. But in the long run, he promises me something better than “fulfillment”—the joy of the Lord. And that is worth everything.
However much I love or am loved by others, there is always risk. People can back away and withdraw their vulnerability. Barriers can arise. Friendships can break. Marriages can end.
God’s love is different. It’s unconditional and lasting. I see this love in creation. I see it in the cross. And I see this love in the Bible, over and over. One of my favourite reminders is Psalm 27:10
“My father and mother may abandon me, but the Lord will take care of me.” (GNT)
God knows the worst about me, and yet he persists in loving me. And he always will. That too is good news.
Learning to trust God’s love: Loved even when unlovable
Ted and I continued our conversation over lunch another day. He’s curious to discover what he missed as a teenager. He’s hungry for good news.
Not all of these points will resonate with him. And I’m not always so articulate. But I do want to know how Jesus is good news for my life, for Ted’s sake and mine.
How is Jesus good news for you?