In our last post, we talked about 4 dominating traits that mark the people of God. They are Love, Goodness, Wisdom and Freedom. Sadly these are NOT character traits that would be the knee-jerk descriptors of the church today. We need to be proactive to change this by living into those traits.
Over the next few months I’d like to roll out some thoughts on each of these. Let’s begin with goodness.
It becomes clear that God is glorified by his people only when their actions are good (Mt. 5:16) and they live into their created purpose of being agents of goodness in the world (Eph.2:10). But the trajectory has become skewed because we’d rather be right than good.
Justifiable Stone Throwing?
I was struck by the overwhelming flavor of recent posts on facebook this past month. It seems that this is the era of taking shots at Christian brothers. There were posts that ripped to shreds a number of Christian leaders by offering everything from steps to avoid falling like they did to questioning the sincerity of their apologies. But it didn’t stop there. Some took it upon themselves to “expose” the flaws in the morality, teachings, and practices of men of faith from Constantine to Luther to CS Lewis. I even read a post that “cast stones” at Billy Graham. All this from Christian brothers and sisters who believe it is their duty to expose sin, or more pointedly to be right in the name of truth-telling.
It dawned on me that the modern church in America really loves scandal. Like the Pharisees of old the scandalous shortcomings of others makes us feel right about ourselves.
We feel that we have taken and held the moral high ground; that we have attained a superior theological intellect or have a handle on all spiritual truth; or, we feel our hard work at holiness affords us the right to say, “thank you God that I’m not like those sinners“. After all we don’t want to come across as being soft on sin. Championing what we passionately think is right justifies our stone throwing. We have become the Pharisees of old.
So much of Jesus teachings run counter to this ideology. We all know the story of the woman caught in adultery (Jn. 8:1-11). The Pharisees incite a mob to stone a woman for her sin just as the law required. This is a cut-and-dry, no-room-for-misinterpretation, concrete-God-spoken-truth issue. Jesus’ response to those who were in the right was, “Whoever is without sin, cast the first stone”.
Those words are not just a cleaver assessment aimed to defuse a horrible situation or circumvent a trap set by the religious elite. They are a timeless threatening indictment issued by the only Judge of the Universe. Who would dare cast stones?
Yet we have become so attuned to the ideation that we are right, that we fail to see the log in our own eye (Lk. 6:41-42). We enjoy it when others are defined by their sin because it diverts our attention away from, and numbs us to our own wickedness. Like the Pharisees we’ve placed our trust in the concreteness of truth rather than the finished mysterious work of a Savior. This allows us to proclaim that we have the right and true doctrine; we go to the right denominational church; we have the right moral outlook and engage in the right practices. We are at the top of the spiritual food chain and therefore find it second nature to call out, humiliate, gossip about, destroy and “stone” others. We have so immorally forgotten that Jesus paid it all.
Agents of Goodness
Instead of throwing stones, God’s people should be the agents of grace in a dark world. We should be the safest people on the planet. The mark on the people of God is that they are good more than they are right. Goodness constrains us to restore people who have fallen (2 Cor. 5:17-21). It drives us to humble ourselves before God because we may not have right answers (Micah 6:8). It allows us to be salt that preserves and flavors our sphere of influence and lamps that cast light, not stones on the darkness. Jesus said that if salt loses its flavor and light is hampered under a bushel, they are worthless (Mt. 5:13); another strong indictment from the only most high judge.
“Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.” – Billy Graham
Goodness is not a word that the world would use to describe Christ’s Church or Kingdom today. We must each change the trajectory by being good. We must cease to listen to Pharisaical brothers and sisters who need to taut rightness. We must not participate in the casting of stones but graciously walk away. We must seek to restore those who are broken, wounded, fallen and perishing not take them to task. We must remember that Goodness is an identifying mark on the people of God.
If at the end of our lives, others can’t ascribe goodness as a dominant character trait on us, then they cannot say we are the people of God. There will be nothing from our lives that will bring glory to God if we are right. God is glorified by the outworking of goodness He instills in us.
“No good work is done anywhere without aid from the Father of Lights.” – C.S. Lewis
God help us to be good!
Leave a Comment: Did this post provoke you to goodness? Share your thoughts.