Listening to the News
By Ann Jervis
Mar 28, 2022
Do you, like me, have a complicated relationship with the news? I find it almost magnetic—I want to know “what is going on,” to think myself part of current social dramas. I also find the news disorienting and discomfiting—it depicts a world out of control. I am both drawn to my news feeds and feel a strong caution about how they are affecting me.
I understand the draw. Beyond the basic human desire to be part of things, as a person who believes that this is God’s world, I feel I should be informed. The disquiet I feel also comes from my belief that this is God’s world.
The news can orient us away from the good news
While I feel a responsibility to know, and hopefully act well in response to whatever difficult drama is within my scope, I also fear that the news can orient me (and my fellow believers) away from the good news. This can happen by disheartening us, prompting us to despair of God’s whereabouts in whatever mess is being featured in the media. The news can also reshape us, tempting us to think that power is might, that love is insipid, that we need to make compromises with evil in order to achieve a greater good.
This is where Paul is helpful. The apostle reminds us of the discipline involved in keeping ourselves attuned to the good news: the news of God’s presence through the Spirit, of the truth that love is true power, and that, to paraphrase Paul, because of Christ’s death and resurrection, believers are dead to sin and slaves entirely of righteousness (Romans 6). The discipline of faith involves seeing ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). It involves prayer and praise and deciding what to fill our minds with. In Philippians, Paul writes: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice. ... Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9). Paul’s goal for believers is that we have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5).
Good news that envelopes all other news
Though what we hear in the news will often be horrific and distressing—especially when fellow Christians act in ways that make us weep—in truth we live in a story that embraces these stories: the story of God’s incursion into the mess of the world, of God’s liberation of humanity from sin and death through Christ’s cross and resurrection, and of God’s gift of God’s own character and life to humanity. It is this good news that envelopes all other news. The obedience of faith allows us to hear God’s story over and above the noise of the other stories.
I have found it helpful to frame my reading of the news with worship and prayer—to focus on God before and after I fill my mind with current events. I suggest that this discipline, combined with consciously determining what fills our thoughts, is essential if we Christians are to wisely enact God’s wondrous defeat of evil accomplished in Christ’s resurrection.
Ann Jervis is Professor of New Testament at Wycliffe College. An expert on the Apostle Paul, if you enjoyed this reflection you may also appreciate "Hope for a Threatened World," and "To be close to Christ's death, the knowledge of love."