Good news carries little significance unless it is on the heals of bad news.
My wife and I have a few TV shows that we watch regularly (other than sports, which I watch and she sleeps to). We love Criminal Minds, which we look forward to every Wednesday night. But we also love to watch reruns of The King of Queens, because, well, Kevin James. The dude is just too funny. The more of the sitcom that you watch, the more you learn about Kevin James’ character, Doug Heffernan, and his family. One thing that you begin to realize over time is that Doug and his parents cannot handle bad news.
In one particular episode, Doug and his wife, Carrie, visit Doug’s parents in Florida. While there, the couple is greeted by a lively and beloved family dog, Rocky. The mini family reunion is going well until they all begin watching home videos from when Doug was a kid and you start to realize that the old family dog is, well, just a little too old. In the video, the family is celebrating the Bicentennial with a backyard barbecue featuring, you guessed it, Doug and Rocky. The problem is that if the dog in the video was the same as the dog in Doug’s lap, the dog would be over thirty years old!
Evidently, Rocky had died, but not only that, his replacement dog had died two times over! The Rocky he was playing with in Florida was the third replacement of the original Rocky! Carrie learns very quickly that the Heffernans hide bad news in order to avoid awkward conversations and keep from upsetting anyone. They sweep everything under the rug, or in this case, bury everything in the backyard!
It is tempting for Christians to take this same sweep-under-the-rug mentality when it comes to sin. Evangelism is hard because it involves telling someone that he or she is a sinner. This is why evangelism is often defined as a “conversation between two nervous people.” The awkwardness involved in sharing the gospel is so thick you could cut it. I have at times felt so awkward while sharing the gospel that I could barely stand up after the conversation was over. It felt more like torture than the positive spin we often try to put on evangelism.
If I can be honest for a minute, I must admit that telling someone that without Jesus they will remain forever lost in their sin is not as appealing as, say, talking about how dominant UK’s defense is. I honestly don’t wake up saying, “Yes, a new day to go tell some friends and strangers that their throats are an open grave and the venom of asps is on their lips (Rom. 3:13). But oh how necessary is this to realize before the gospel can be cherished!
Evangelism is the daily outworking of grace in a child of God to share grace with an enemy of God. It occurs in daily life. From the body shop to the beauty shop, the glory of God’s grace in the gospel extends to sinners. But as glorious as this is, the message of the gospel never reaches the ears of the mechanic or the hair stylist because of a desperate fear of bringing bad news.
Like the Heffernan family, bringing bad news is so uncomfortable that we would much prefer to sweep it under the rug and just focus on positive things. In fact, we are so allergic to bringing bad news that we try to find creative ways to share the gospel without even one mention of sin. We will talk about how God loved us all so much that he sent his Son to die for us. However, if we forget to mention the purpose in this sacrificial love and death, we miss the point of the gospel. If you leave sin out of the equation, you must leave the cross out as well.
The gospel cannot be received as good news until it is preceded by the bad news. Only when we see how dreadful our condition in sin is will we desire a Savior. So, in one way if your experience with evangelism has led to some awkward conversations, you should be encouraged. More than likely, you brought up the reality of sin. The gospel makes no sense without lovingly and winsomely confronting people with the truth that they are sinners in need of a Savior.
Don’t take a sweep-under-the-rug approach to sin. Bringing bad news is incredibly uncomfortable, but it is eternally significant. What does it profit a man to see his friend lose his soul because he gained comfort by not talking about sin? Like a raving maniac waving his arms, running, and yelling to warn drivers of the turned-over semi around a curve, we must willingly risk looking or sounding awkward for the sake of the salvation of lives. The message of the gospel is important enough to sacrifice your sense of comfort. Be awkward for the sake of Christ. Bring bad news to your lost friends because you know how indescribably good the Good News really is.
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.