“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
A couple had been attending worship on and off for several months when they met the pastor at the door following the service and announced that this would be their last Sunday. The pastor asked them why. The woman replied, “You Lutherans talk about sin so much. You’re too negative. We found a church where they never mention it. It’s much more positive.”
I was not that pastor but I have heard similar remarks over the years. And something I like to point out to those who make such comments is the words ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ are to be found nowhere in the Bible. Those are not the proper categories for biblical preaching nor do they adequately address the human predicament.
If positive and negative are not adequate categories for addressing our situation, what categories do we use? The Bible speaks of death and life. These are the terms that get to the heart of things. Any church that is not willing to deal with you on these terms is simply not taking you seriously.
The Christian message is not a religious self-help course, offering tips for living to those who need a bit more optimism or a more positive attitude. Christ Jesus has met us at the point of our deepest need, forgiving our sin, our willfulness, and defeating death so that, in Him, we might have authentic life and a real future.
Many years ago, one of my seminary professors, Marc Kolden, attended the funeral of the politician Hubert Humphrey. A famous TV preacher took to the puplit and began to wax eloquently about Hubert’s life. He never let things get him down. He was always on the upswing, always positive. Prof. Kolden looked over at the casket and said to himself, ‘Well, Hubert, is that positive attitude of yours going to get you out of that casket?’ Exactly.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”