Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Raffi Shahinian on The Good News

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

This entry is a part of an on-going blog series called The Good News, which is taking place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. Raffi’s local newspaper is the Los Angeles Times. Here is Raffi Shahinian on the Good News.

THE GOOD NEWS

Trust me, I’m not a hellfire-and-brimstone kinda guy. But when asked to write a few words on “The Good News” to the people of Los Angeles, I instantly had a Col. Nathan R. Jessep moment…

Good News?! You can’t handle The Good News!!

A few preliminaries.

By “Good News,” I don’t mean “good news.”

The Lakers are looking poised for a championship run. That’s good news.

The recession looks like it’s bottomed out. That’s good news.

The Creator of the universe has launched His fail-proof plan to fix His beloved creation, and we’re been invited to help Him implement that plan by living in its glow in advance of its consummation.

That’s Good News. It’s a translation of the Greek euangelion, a word used to announce the ascension of a new Roman emperor. It did not imply “break out the champaign.” It implied “get down on your knees.”

It implied “loyalty,” “allegiance.” I don’t wanna say “We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something; you use them as a punch line” …

But you hear me, right?

C’mon, Angelinos. Do you really wanna hear about allegiance to a Master? Do you really wanna hear about ultimate justice for the poor and the oppressed?

I mean deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, do you really wanna hear about serving others as a lifestyle? And not just friends and family, I mean others, you know, those uncool, unwealthy, unsexy others, or as some people put it, “the least of these?”

Like I said, I’m usually a much more “inclusive,” “inspirational,” “feel-good” kinda guy. I don’t often use words like “us” and “them,” “we” and “you.” I don’t know, maybe you just caught me on a bad day. But something about the context of this whole question…how can I put this…?

I mean, we’re talking about things that are fundamentally opposite to the most basic, ingrained principles by which we’ve all been taught to live! We’re talking worldview-level stuff. We’re talking about a bat explaining to a human how it sees the world.

We’re talking about Someone who was despised by the world, in a city firmly footed in glamour.

In a city that hands out golden statuettes to honor someone’s work, we’re talking about the Guy who was honored with a crown of thorns and iron spikes hammered into His body.

In a city where “power” is on display, manifesting itself in the form of power couples, power lunches, power plays and power deals, we’re talking about the first being last, and the most powerful being slaves.

In a city that loves new cars, new restaurants, new trends, new movies, new gossip and new stars, we’re talking about new life, New Creation.

Do you hear what I’m saying? This is nonsense. This is a waste of print. This is a fairy tale!

Stop reading this!! Take another sip of your latte and flip to the Sports section.

Manny’s getting hot! The Dodgers are in first-place in the NL West.

That’s good news!!

Raffi’s a fledgling author, humbled father, blessed husband, wanna-be theologian, repentant attorney, stumbling disciple and chief rambler over at Parables of a Prodigal World.


15 Responses to Raffi Shahinian on The Good News

  1. *An eerie silence pervades*

  2. brent says:

    the pervading silence speaks volumes. Thanks for the post… well said!

  3. jrwoodward says:

    Raffi,

    Raffi,

    You are certainly going for the jugular here, and as Brent has said, sometimes silence speaks louder than words.

    As I read the gospels, Jesus certainly said it would be difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom and that where we are located “the kind of soil” makes a difference in the receptivity of the word.

    So do you think that all Angeleno’s are in the same place? How would you speak to those on skid row or the illegal immigrant or oppressed worker? Can anyone “break out the champaigne” because Jesus is Lord? And how do you think the rich in this life can see the news as truly good?

  4. JR,

    I hear the question. Some others asked me similarly-themed questions after the post went up.

    I’m gonna try to provide an answer over at Parables on Saturday.

    Stay tuned.

    Grace and Peace,
    Raffi

  5. jrwoodward says:

    Raffi,

    That is cool. Please copy some of your response here for the benefits of those who are looking for a response here as well. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. I appreciate your entry.

  6. Maria says:

    Raffi,

    Thanks for this post. I love your rhetoric… and the amazing dissonance between what is honored in the world and the life of Jesus.

    I used to do ministry with middle schoolers. I loved it. But try to get a 7th grader who wants so so so much to belong, to be cool, to get an iPhone… and is scared to death about being different, about being talked about, about finding themselves on the outside.. try getting them to grasp the gospel. I feel like it is the same thing. You are telling them that all the desires that they are feeling, all the things they think they need to grasp on to for their very survival in their world are wrong. That they need to let go. And that they need to turn to something that totally does not make sense in their situation.

    It’s hard to convince a middle schooler to follow someone who was misunderstood, ridiculed, and killed. Someone who spent their time with the rejects and didn’t care too much about being cool. It’s hard to convince a middle schooler that the last is actually first. Everything in their world tells them otherwise.

    Sadly, i find the church doesn’t embrace its utter call to be powerless, uncool… last. Instead we try to get middle schoolers to follow Jesus through kickball games, cool trips, eating disgusting combinations of food, and a really well dressed youth minister. We find another way, because the actual call to follow Jesus just doesn’t really make sense in our world. It’s too hard.

    Like you said, it’s nonsense.

  7. Scott says:

    Raffi,

    You are an excellent writer with insightful thoughts.

    This could be expanded to metropolitan America… We live in a culture that exalts the beautiful and wealthy when the good news of the kingdom of God was preached to the poor (Lk 4) by One who was ugly (Is 53:2) and was later beaten into disfigurement (Mark 15:19). In the peak of his years, he was stripped of all his belonging, even his clothes, mocked, spit upon, beaten, penniless… He taught and demonstrated that life comes through death, a innocent death rooted in the Truth, in a world where the rich and powerful dominate, deception and manipulation reign – that following Him meant denying yourself every day – the god of entertainment, the god of independance, the god of success, the god of self-centeredness, etc. – and take up the ethos of the cross bearer we follow as a servant, even a slave of all…

    Who wants such a life?

    Those who desire freedom…
    Those who desire community…
    Those who desire forgiveness…

    Those who are tired of the “life” that puts us in shackles and chains, deceived into thinking that we are “expressing our individuality” when we are just living like everybody else – those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – who recognize their worth comes not from the status we’ve achieved but the status we’ve been given as ones redeemed from our existence of self-absorption by One who selflessly gave his life so that we might have life to the full, living in the same world, but as a people with a different King who live and proclaim as ones who display the reality of a different kingdom characterized by love, joy, peace, justice, righteousness, selflessness, and our unashamed inter-dependence on one another…

  8. Dustin James says:

    Raffi,

    I can feel the passion in your post. I love the reference to “A Few Good Men.” And you’re right many of us can’t handle the Good News. We’ve settled for cute vignettes of good news that don’t require anything of us, but gives us something juicy to talk about during coffee breaks and lunch outings.

    I’ve been thinking about James’s words from the scriptures, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this…to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I’m afraid we’ve been polluted and failed to identify with widows, orphans, marginalized, oppressed starting in Los Angeles and all over the world.

    I think your post would be well read and passionately discussed in a Los Angeles newspaper.

  9. Kerry Whalen says:

    Hmmm. Loved this post. I am so convinced (& awestruck) that the Kingdom of God is not built on the same foundations as any of this world’s kingdoms. Power relations are turned upside-down. Societal values become… worthless! Raffi you’ve hit us with a slap in the face that should wake us up to the dynamics & values that power this society that we live in. We are so immersed in them that we accept them as “normal”, yet they are utterly foreign to Kingdom of God values.

    But is this the “Good News”? And are we (as Maria put it) called to be “powerless, uncool…last”.

    I think we are called to let God work His power through us. Yes – we’re called to hand over the reigns, give up, in a sense, what we feel makes us strong. But not because it’s correct to be “uncool”. Not even for the sake of greater justice, per se. This is the scary step. This is where “faith” comes in! The Good News is that GOD -who is supremely powerful, eternal, loving, completely good, absolutely true and utterly real is willing to inhabit, infuse, empower and completly enliven US. In the face of such amazing reality, “being cool” or even “being powerful” seems a bit trivial, really. Like you said, it’s nonsense – or as the apostle, Paul, put it – “dung”. Because there’s nothing on this earth that compares to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. Whether you’re rich or poor, this really is, “Good News”.

    & hey, Maria – if our 7th graders are “not getting it” (& I’m a teacher in a Christian school – same problem where I live!) could it be that we are not conveying to them the reality of God? I’m writing this because I’m hungry for the REAL God-life. I think our kids (& most of our generation) are hungry for it, too!

  10. Wow. The silence is broken!

    OK, here we go.

    JR: You know me, brother. It’ll be more parable than coherent response. But I’ll be here, too, if anyone wants to keep talking.

    Maria: Yeah, I guess we are indoctrinated pretty early on. And I agree, we in the church tend to play the game right along with everyone else, “In Jesus’ name.”

    Dustin: HA! Which paper do you think would publish something like THAT!! But thanks for the kind words.

    Grace and Peace,
    Raffi

  11. Sonja says:

    Raffi,
    Yes it is kind of insane isn’t it…!
    I liked your image of ‘a bat explaining to a human how it sees the world’
    way to complicated….
    I was reminded by this chapter 1 corinthians 2: 6-16 where paul speaks about the MIND of the Spirit…
    I liked the hope you shared about the creator of the universe and His plan where we are invited to ‘help Him implement that plan by living in it’s glow in advance of its consummation’.
    It reminded me of of this passage : ‘How to live a full life in the emptiest of places’
    isaiah 58:6-12 (the message translation)

    one question:
    In your ‘talking about’ session:
    Why did you choose the word honored?
    ‘the Guy who was honored with a crown of thorns and iron spikes hammered into this body’
    I just wondered how the world can honour Someone she despised?
    I was more thinking of the word ‘mocked’
    What do you think?

  12. Sonja,

    It was used in the Phillippians 3:5-3:8 sense…irony, sarcasm, whatever you wanna call it.

  13. Sonja says:

    Raffi,
    Circumcised?lol
    Another question:
    You mentioned the city and its ‘power’ and the concept of ‘we’re talking about the first being last and the most powerful being slaves’
    What do you mean by ‘the most powerful being slaves’?
    Do you refer to a believer becoming a slave again?

  14. OK, guys. Here’s the answer I promised to JR to the “but what about those who can hear the Good News”-type questions I was getting:

    My REAL “Good News” Post.

    Grace and Peace,
    Raffi

  15. Pingback: Can you handle The Good News? « Grace Rules Weblog

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