Before I begin, let me just say, I’m feeling nervous.
Matter of fact I texted one of my best friends and asked him to pray for me.I’ve got my coffee, my bible, my computer and I’m ready to write this, what will be the first new blog and will lead into my very first episode of The Ragamuffin Preacher Podcast,…I have everything I need…but there is just one problem…I also have me.
And while my coffee has the perfect amount of cream and way too much sugar – just the way I like it. You know, the way children like their coffee. I also have a bible that is open to the precise verses I’d like to talk about. And I have my seven year old computer that is almost not acting like a piece of crap….but when I think of me …I’m a collection of paradoxes. I love and I hate. I am selfless and even more selfish. I forgive and I hold grudges. I’ll give you a big hug…but if you cut me off in traffic…watch out!
I am anything but good. Now don’t let your nerdy theological (if that’s your deal) head spin into a frenzy…hang with me for a second.
Have you ever pondered the Christian scripture: Mark 10:17 “…a man rand up and knelt before him (Jesus) and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”For now let’s ignore that in Matthew 19 – the story is slightly recounted differently…the man doesn’t say “Good teacher”…but “Teacher…what GOOD deed must I do to inherit eternal life? – Just another interesting tidbit – but does make you at the very least go…huh…apparently Matthew and Mark remembered that moment slightly differently – and the bonus is it gives preachers like me two very different sermons ; – )
Now the seminary student right now is going…”because the goodness you have right now is not your own, it’s God’s goodness as a gift he gives you. All arrows are pointing to the purpose of the Cross.”Maybe. Probably.But right now what’s on my mind is, no matter your theological stance, what else could God be up to communicating with that story? Because God is always up to more than we think…
What comes to my mind is our current culture…yes, political, but much more than that.
You are good if you are a Republican, and not if you are a Democrat.
You are good if you are a Democrat, and not if you are a Republican.
You are good if you believe the bible is infallible, and not if you don’t.
You are good if you believe the Pope is the highest authority, and not if you are a Protestant.
You are good if you are a Protestant, and not if you are a Catholic.
You are good if you believe in the Presence in the Eucharist, and not if you think it’s just a symbol.
You are good if you believe in God, and not if you are an Atheist.
You are good (smart) if you don’t believe in God, and not (smart) if you do believe in God.
You are good if you recycle, and not if you don’t.
You are good if you vote, and not if you don’t.
You are good if you are a Baptist, and not if you are a Pentecostal.
You are good if you are Non-Denominational, and not if you have a denomination label on your sign.
You are good if you don’t sin, and bad if you do.
Where is the hope?
Doesn’t this culture feel like a never ending game of ping-pong. You’re good. You’re bad. You’re bad. You’re good. Let’s cut to the chase: What we really mean if were honest is this: You’re bad. I’m good
.I would say that Jesus saw this coming…but this problem has always been. This has always been one of our flaws of humanity…and I expect it will continue far after we are all gone.We love our boxes. We love to put people in categories. Which categories are the “good ones”?I’ll tell you which one. Which ever one we fall in.
In light of this…aren’t BOTH the versions of that moment with the man coming up to Jesus so brilliant? If God who is infallible wrote the scriptures through the infallibility of humans…it’s still so brilliant…We can take two pretty powerful lessons from these two scriptures…
1. No deed is good.
2. No human being is good.
This isn’t meant to be bad news. It’s meant to be good news. It means that we aren’t God, so we can quit acting like it and separating all people and deeds into the two categories of “Good” vs. “Bad.”
My wife and I have very imperfectly tried our best to not use the word “good” or “bad” with our kids. Instead we do our best to not define their activity as good or bad…but helping them learn (even at this young age) of a deeper reality…when they hurt, spit, kick, fight, or whatever lovely things 4 year olds do when you tell them they can’t have another 25 pounds of sugar….we ask them only one question: Was that loving?
Because if it’s loving, then it’s healthy, and if it’s healthy, it will be as one might say, “good.”
It’s such a waste of time to play God and decide who is in and out, who is good and bad, who are the winners and the losers, who are the holy and the heathens.In the Christian Scriptures in the book of James we read how powerful the tongue is…we learn that it’s like the rudder of a ship. Yes it’s powerful to create direction for cruise ships, but also for creating worlds.
Look at the world around you.
You are good if you are famous, and bad if you’re are not.
You are good if you are rich, and bad if you are poor.
You are good if you are a man, and bad if you are a woman.
You are good if you are white, and bad if you are not white.
You are good if you are on my political team, and bad if you are not.
Why do you think there’s been so much social explosions….and campaigns for change like: Black Lives Matter, #Me too, etc?
Because enough is enough.
And what if you said “enough” in your own life. What if you stopped dissecting your self-worth with what is “good” vs “bad.” Your looks, your wallet, your instagram followers, your youtube views, your career.
Look at the world of your own heart.
I am good if I read my bible, pray, go to church, recycle, don’t cuss, drink, chew, and go with girls that do!
We create boxes, lists, and categories for our own self-worth, which in turn defines our own identity. With the spike of technology, social media, and the like…as been also parallel with the spike of suicide rates.
Why do you think?
Because we compare and contrast. We decide who is good and who is not. There is no good, except God alone. But there is such a thing as love.
Matter of fact the Christian Scriptures state clearly that: God is love.
I kinda like to think that the reason Jesus said…no thing or person is “good”…but God is…is because Jesus knew that God is love…and you become and define yourself as the “good” that you chase.
Whatever is “good” to you is what you try to mirror, imitate, or become.
Why do you think there’s so many people trying to be famous like Kim Kardashian, actors like Ryan Gosling, or political like Obama?
Whatever we deem as “good”…is what we seek to become…because we think that is what will make us happy. Give us joy. Give us peace…and ultimately bring us life…and not just life…but life more abundantly.
And Jesus, being the smartest man that’s ever lived, said brilliantly …”only God is good.” Chase him. Follow him. Put your identity in him. Imitate him. Love him.
Because in doing so…we would find what we are really seeking…to be loved. And then we will have finally found something to make us happy, joyful, peaceful, and ultimately life…and life more abundantly.