“Before anyone can truly accept and appreciate the good news, they need to hear the bad news first.” I have often heard this phrase in reference to the order of how we are supposed to share the gospel to a lost and dying world. We’re supposed to make sure people understand that they are sinners and hopelessly separated from God before we can move on to the good news of salvation. But I do not agree with this statement. The very first thing a person who is suffering needs to hear is good news; and most people are suffering.
In Matthew 4:23-5:5, and in many other passages of Scripture, we see Jesus teaching and preaching the gospel, which included healing people of all types of illness and disease. He consoled them and gave them incredible hope and good news—he restored them. In none of these particular passages do I see Jesus needing to set the record straight before healing someone or comforting them with good news. He doesn’t callously say to the leper, “Hey, you’ve got a sin problem and you are far from God. You need to understand how much of a sinner you are and repent. Then I will heal you.”
No, Jesus reaches out and touches the sick and immediately heals them. Without requiring anything from them he declares, “Your sins are forgiven.” He sees that they already know the bad news—they’ve been living the bad news. Their illness has already made them experience isolation; they are already well aware of the effects of sin.
Suffering people need to feel Jesus’ touch on their shoulder and his words of affirmation and love. They need to know that God sees them, loves them, and that their suffering matters to him. They do not need us to tell them that they are sinners, that they are separated from a holy God. They already intrinsically know this. It is something they’ve experienced every single day.
It’s not often our job to declare the bad news; it is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin. It is however, always our duty to announce the good news, inviting people into God’s Kingdom and to offer a listening ear, a comforting pat on the shoulder, and the words: “You are deeply loved and accepted.”