I’m terrible at receiving criticism. In school, I hated reading teachers’ comments on my papers, quickly shoving returned work to the back of a binder before I could bring myself to look at it later. I suspect few of my coaches would have described me as “coachable,” and to this day, I have to fight not to bristle when my wife points out that I missed a spot doing the dishes. I live thinking that what I do is good (maybe even great) and it certainly doesn’t pass below the level of acceptable.
I suspect that most people are like me. We don’t like to hear that what we’re doing is wrong. If we miss a deadline or don’t do a job right, there’s always an extenuating circumstance. If people would just understand the full picture of what has happened, they’d see that it’s really not my fault at all.
Our inclination to avoid criticism and to assume that we’re doing well is part of the reason many do not see the gospel of Jesus Christ as good news at all. For, the good news of Jesus begins with the bad news that you and I are not as perfect as we believe ourselves to be. The gospel declares that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:32) and that “none is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks God” (Rom. 3:10-11). Apart from Christ, you and I “were dead in the trespasses and sin in which we once walked…and were by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:1-3). The gospel begins by telling us the bad news that we stand in desperate need of a Savior.
When we understand that bad news to be true about ourselves, the gospel of Christ becomes glorious. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). We were dead in our disobedience, but God has made all who put their faith in Christ alive with him (Eph. 2:4-6).
As Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:12-13). Only as we recognize how truly far we are from God, will we recognize the greatness of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. When we accept the bad news of our guilt before our perfectly holy and righteous God, then the gospel will be good news indeed.