On the way home last night I caught a little bit of a Radio Four programme about society. In a nutshell the discussion centred around the theme that society is getting worse and we're destined to destruction. There were arguments for, and there were arguments against.
What was interesting was that there was also some discussion about how we are programmed to pay attention to negative stimuli. For example, if you're wandering around the African pain and someone shouts, "Lion!" you take notice. If they said, "It's been four days and I haven't seen a lion," you'll probably ignore that and go about your foraging.
Setting aside arguments about evolution, I think this has profound implications for being good news people. If we too are predisposed to hear the negative above the positive, then we will look at the world around us and conclude that it's getting worse, but we'll take another step. We will add a layer of Biblical interpretation to that perspective and conclude that this is the way it will be and there' little to be done about it expect wait for the inevitable day of judgement.
But even that is not all we do. We assume that everyone else sees the same inevitable decline all them and has a similar sense of despair. We offer hope against this interpretive background, but what if it's not true? What if things are actually better than they once were? What shape our hope then?
Now I'm fully aware of what the Bible says about the future and how we can understand that. I know that judgement is coming, but our anecdotal evidence for a worsening society and a theology predicated upon that may not hold up to inspection.
Here's another thought. John Kramp in his book Out of their faces and into their shoes makes an interesting point when he suggests that the so-called lost (I prefer Jim Henderson's "missing" to lost) are in fact quite happy. In other words, people who do not share our faith position are not as miserable as we think they should be!
Because we are predisposed to react to the negative more than the positive, we more easily reinterpret things within that negative context. We may not mean to do it, but do it we do.
So here's my question: How would our mission look if we took a more positive view of the people around us? If we all, and I mean all, carry the image of God, then how do we celebrate that in the people we meet?
Maybe, after the celebration, we'll find a way of pointing them to a fuller expression of that image in Christ, rather than offer him as a get out jail free card.