By Julie Roys
It’s a classic case of shoot the messenger.
About a week ago, a relatively unknown seismologist predicted a destructive earthquake would strike the Abruzzo region of central Italy. He was so concerned that he drove around the town of L’Aquila in a van with loudspeakers warning locals to evacuate their homes.
This angered the townspeople and the mayor who then and reported the scientist, Giampaolo Giuliani, to police. The police accused Giuliani of spreading alarm and forced him to remove his warnings from the Internet. The authorities also gathered a group of scientists who discredited Giuliani’s findings. “It . . . is not in any way possible to predict an earthquake,” they said. They reassured the townspeople and marginalized Giuliani. And then, early Monday morning, a magnitude-6.3 earthquake struck the region, killing more than 200.
Giuliani’s story, I think, reminds us that no one likes bad news. Ignorance is bliss, as the saying goes. And, rather than heed warnings, people often cover their ears and vilify those who try to save them.
Christ’s Passion reminds us of this truth. The people of Israel two-thousand years ago wanted a feel-good Messiah – someone who would bring good news of deliverance from the Romans. The religious leaders, especially, desired a leader who would shore up their political power. But Jesus didn’t meet their expectations. Instead, he revealed peoples’ sin.
He called the Pharisees white-washed tombs, his own people – children of the devil. Perhaps most offensive, Jesus spoke more about hell than any other Jewish leader before him. He was a messenger with an unpopular message. So, he was hated; he was scourged; he was crucified.
American Christians don’t face consequences nearly as severe as those Christ faced. But, there remain negative ramifications for delivering a message the world still doesn’t want to hear. When we Christians condemn homosexual behavior, we’re assailed as bigots. When we decry the scourge of abortion, we’re called legalists. And when we talk about the reality of hell, the world deems us fear-mongerers.
Recently, I heard a mom talk disparagingly about the “Resurrection Eggs.” These are 12 plastic eggs, each containing a symbol that helps tell the story of Christ’s Passion. In one is a thorn, another a nail, and so on. It’s way too gory for kids, complained the mom. Let’s just keep Easter a story about the resurrection. Who really needs to know the awful details of how Christ died – or why?
It is shocking – the Son of God tortured and nailed to a cross. And what’s worse, Scripture makes it clear that each of us is culpable for this horrendous act. It’s a terribly unpopular message. But as believers, we can’t shrink back from proclaiming it – despite the consequences. Like Guiliani experienced, our community may try to silence us. They may get angry. But God’s judgment is a calamity that will make Italy’s earthquake seem insignificant by comparison… That is, if people fail to heed Christ’s warning.