John 15:22-25 “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”
What’s your reaction when someone tells you that what you are doing, saying, or thinking is wrong? How about when someone points out that you are sinning or otherwise questions your behavior or words? Typically, my own initial reaction when someone has said something like this to me is defensiveness, i.e., to immediately begin justifying myself. Another reaction is guilt – which, let’s face it, is not a good feeling. And perhaps this all leads inevitably to anger – against the messenger, with that common response of “I don’t know who you think you are to say that to me?!” This can lead to verbal attacks against the other person, either to their face or behind their back. And perhaps the last and most unlikely response is self-examination, and a consideration that perhaps our accuser may very well be right.
This is exactly what we see as the paradox of sharing the gospel, the “good news” with others. Jesus, in the greatest act of condescension known to the universe, humbled himself, came from the glory of heaven to the brokenness of earth as a man and died on a cross to pay the penalty of a just God for the sins of the world. He did this because it was the only means by which God could justly redeem sinful men and women and bless them with the gift of eternal life. This, indeed, is very good news. How could anyone possibly react negatively to such an act of love? But Jesus warned his followers that the world would indeed react very negatively, and likely ostracize them, persecute them and even kill them to shut them up for sharing the life-giving message of the gospel. The reason they would do this, Jesus said, was because of their guilt – for the gospel begins with the declaration that every single one of us is a sinner. We have evil hearts and we hate God – no matter how well we think of ourselves (and most of us have a very high opinion of ourselves, no matter what we may intimate to the contrary). We are all naturally deceitful, wicked, God-hating, degenerate, unloving, and ungodly – and no one wants to hear this. But unless we acknowledge these facts, we will never turn to Christ, who alone has paid the penalty for our sins. In our guilt, self-righteous anger often results. It’s so bad that the leaders of first century Palestine murdered the sinless Son of God to shut him up. But he lives! And his message still lives in the Words of the Bible and in the mouths of his followers who share it.
So, what’s your reaction to the “good news”: guilt, anger, and rejection, or confession, repentance, and acceptance? Your answer to this question will determine the condition of your heart and destiny of your life, both in this world, and in the age to come.