In 1978 I was twenty years old. Shortly after Thanksgiving that year I was travelling across Texas with a singing group from my college. One evening I was enjoying the hospitality of a church family, watching the movie, Orka, the Killer Whale, when I was overcome with pain in my abdomen. They took me to Spring Branch Memorial Hospital in Houston. The Hispanic doctor asked; “Have you had Mexican food this evening?
“Yes, quite a bit,” I said.
“Have you ever had Mexican food before?”
“No, this is the first time.”
“Well I’m afraid you’re a Gringo who just can’t handle his Mexican food.” He gave me a strong antacid and sent me home. I tried to sleep but things just got worse. Finally I could take the pain no more. I returned to the hospital.
After many painful hours of observation they finally decided that I had acute appendicitis and prepared me for surgery. Once they were sure it was appendicitis they gave me a shot of something very strong that seemed to make all my troubles go away immediately. In no time I was feeling fine and preparing to fly back to Springfield, Missouri – without my appendix – to be comforted by my then-girlfriend, Lois.
What if the doctor in Houston, when he discovered that I had appendicitis, had not wanted to frighten me with bad news? What if he just said gave me a shot for pain and sent me home? An inflamed appendix can burst and lead to a painful, poisonous death. A strong narcotic for pain would have masked the symptoms and cost me my life.
Sometimes the very best news you can give someone is bad news.
It’s popular to stage happy, positive, entertaining church services that make people feel good these days. I like to think of myself as a positive person. I like to see people happy too, but if something deadly is happening, it’s the truth that might save their life, even if the truth is bad news. Sometimes the best news is bad news.
Recently I have been studying the book of the Bible that explains the Gospel (the word Gospel means “good news”) in the clearest terms. It is the New Testament book of Romans. The first section of the Good News book of Romans is the bad news that all of humanity has a terminal illness called sin. It’s a little like the doctor telling you that you have a deadly disease. The rest of the book tells you how to be delivered from the deadly disease. Until the bad news really dawns on you the good news really doesn’t make sense.
February 11, 2008