Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Good vs Good

“It’s all good.” Now there’s a positive outlook for you… the phrase is used to soothe emotions after an awkward, sensitive or disappointing event. But if I stop to consider it, I believe this attitude is more accurate than the traditional “good vs. evil” mindset. It’s not my nature to see circumstances in this context. I can often overlook patches of vegetation, focusing on the barren ground that surrounds it, rather than the fact that there is life with the potential to grow further. I have allowed myself to become discouraged by the changes occurring in the 2020’s, but as long as there is life, there is hope!

It's hard to see the world as it is and as it could be

Yes, philosophically it truly is all good: evil is the privation of good just as cold is the absence of heat and darkness results from the lack of light. Weakness is the absence of strength. I believe God has given us many natural analogies to help us understand this truth: that evil is not an equally powerful opponent of good. Rather, evil results from a lack of goodness. Now there is only One Who is fully good, and that is God. But at some point, the lack of good in a person or entity is correctly labeled as “evil”.

So what is “good”? I can fall into the trap of “feeling good” over “doing good”, not that it’s wrong to feel good, but seeking to please oneself is hedonism. Some people have claimed that ultimately everyone is hedonistic, saying that philanthropic actions stem from the desire to feel good about doing good, but I know better: we don’t always feel good by doing good and with God’s help, we can persevere in doing good despite the negative reinforcement of some life experiences. The highest form of love, Agape, is doing what is in the best interest of another person even when they don’t want it and you don’t feel like doing it. That is the kind of love Jesus showed us in going to the cross. No one appreciated His sacrifice at the time, including His closest friends. And the night before His death, Jesus prayed for His suffering to pass Him by, but nevertheless, He fully surrendered in obedience to what the Father called “good”.

The Old Testament often referred to evil times as when people do what is right in their own eyes. In other words: people chose to only do the good that made sense to them at the time. We see early in Genesis that Adam and Eve desired the knowledge of good and evil so that they would be like God. In essence, they wanted to choose what was good rather than submit to the Author of all goodness. It’s really no different than when kids only obey what they want to obey. Their partial obedience is really rebellion / lawlessness. It asserts their will to choose what seems right to them as fits their own interest. I have seen my kids even get into fights because of partial obedience: “Dad said YOUR turn on the TV was over after that show!” First world problems flowing from selfish hearts; the symptoms may vary across cultures but the root cause is still the same. Mankind has a tendency to only do what is right in our eyes, a limited goodness that falls short of God’s best in our lives.

But God is good all the time and all His ways are good at all times. His Word is true and good; Scripture in the context of its entirety is always good and true. However, we live in a time when people choose segments of Scripture that make them feel good, while they explain away the parts that are inconvenient. Rather than doing good, people are more interested in feeling good, doing the good that pleases them. Many churches avoid the counter-cultural teachings in Scripture, and Christians avoid the awkward truths of the Bible when dialoging with others. While avoidance can be an acceptable tactic in conflict resolution, it is a poor long-term strategy. Confrontation can be abrasive, but it doesn’t need to be: stick to issues and respect people with opposing viewpoints. Love, Kindness and Self-Control are more important than winning a debate; good Fruit sows good seeds.

We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things. We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.
Hebrews 10:24-25

Be both patient and bold, seeking the Spirit’s leading in every word and inflection. The time is short. In this age of lawlessness, we need, each of us, a strategy for speaking the truth in love… the full truth in agape love. We were, each of us, placed upon the earth for such a time as this, being fruitful in the Fruit of the Spirit by watering in God’s presence daily.

copyright ©2021 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)