If you have been following the news recently, you probably have noticed a lot of discouraging headlines about war, disease, immorality, and economic uncertainty. People are protesting in streets from Hong Kong, China to Ferguson, Missouri. From Moscow to Washington D.C., leaders seem to be more interested in drinking vodka and playing golf than helping the people they serve. How should a Christian react to all of the bad news in this world? Here are a few thoughts that might help us read the news in a redemptive way.
1. Never forget the good news as you encounter bad news.
Remember that Jesus has died and risen again, thereby taking away the sting of death for every believer. Ebola can kill the body, but it cannot kill the soul that has eternal life. Remember that Jesus rules on the throne of heaven and will return again to take vengeance on those who know not God and refuse to obey the gospel. False religions might conquer communities for a time, but they have no permanent claim on the nations of this world. Remember that Jesus’ blood cleanses from all sin. Those who offend God with the most sinful of actions can be forgiven and redeemed. The truth is, the bad news on earth reminds us of the precious value of the good news from heaven.
2. Multitask by mixing prayer with your reading.
A spirit of prayer sanctifies almost anything that we do—from eating to playing sports to reading the news. What if every Christian in the world looked upon every news story about North Korea as an opportunity to pray for believers in persecuted countries or for the salvation of ruthless political leaders? What if every news story about Obamacare moved us to pray that God would heal our land by giving us a spirit of repentance and faith? Responding to the news with anger, disgust, and disappointment is easy. Praying through the news, however, is redemptive.
3. Read more than one news source.
“The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). Because some stories deal with issues that the Bible does not address in black and white terms, we need to be careful not to form dogmatic conclusions after hearing only one perspective. We are all prone to agree with an editorial written by someone whose reputation we trust or whose communication style impresses us. Before buying a fallible person’s ideas, however, we need to take time to read an opposing viewpoint. We need to be especially careful when judging the value of government policies; every policy that the government creates is not inherently evil; some are actually beneficial. If we take time to explore a number of policy perspectives, we will often find ourselves challenged with additional evidence and additional considerations about ways to maintain Scriptural principles while promoting the common good. “He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Proverbs 18:13).
4. Discuss the news with godly, well-informed Christians.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the countenance of another” (Proverbs 27:17). Before we cement our views about the events of this world, we do well to get the additional perspective of godly individuals . . . someone other than Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, or any other personality that makes his living off news entertainment. Recently, I discussed the Hong Kong protests over free elections with a Christian friend who speaks Chinese. I was glad I got his perspective. He informed me of how the Chinese Christians in Hong Kong were reacting to the protests. As a result of my conversation with a devout believer, I had a better sense of how to interpret the protests. “In a multitude of counselors is safety” (Proverbs 11:4).
5. Do not let your perspectives on the news override your testimony to the gospel.
In Asia, I sometimes teach a Bible as Literature course to Chinese students who have never heard about the Tiananmen Square massacre. The levels to which Red China censors the news is shocking, so I have a strong desire to expose my Chinese students to historical facts hidden from them. Nevertheless, I have to remember the bigger picture. I cannot allow talk of controversial political news to shut my student’s hearts to the message of God’s gospel. I have to keep my passion for sharing truths about earthly news in subordination to my passion for sharing truths about heavenly news.
Rather than letting various news reports vex our righteous souls, we can prayerfully interpret current affairs through the lens of the gospel, discipline our minds to diligently research issues, and filter out error through the counsel of godly friends.