Monday, January 16, 2012

Good For Goodness Sake

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20)
I love quotes, words of introspection. I usually try to find and include inspirational or pithy expressions to enhance my writing and help me make a point. If nothing else, using someone else’s poignant wisdom as a backup lends credence to my feeble attempt. The Internet is loaded with websites devoted to quotations from the famous and infamous so it’s not difficult to find reflection on nearly any topic, any point of view. Someone, somewhere, sometime has captured an epiphanal concept/message into a succinct handful of words that is then deemed worthy to repeat as a QUOTATION. Sometimes I know who the quoted person is and sometimes I have no idea who I am gleaning wisdom from. 
It occurred to me recently that this might not be prudent, using what seems to be wise words when I don’t know anything about the person speaking them. The argument to this is, what difference does it make where wisdom comes from? Wisdom is wisdom. Right?
Well, yes and no. The answer is more complex than simply defining what is good as being universally good, greater good, good/good. From my perspective, as a Christian, I ought to be fine-tuned to first seek my wisdom from Christ’s teachings. Many scholars have been quick to point out that Christ spoke good words but also claim that His judicious instruction was simply restating wisdom that had been around for eons, penned or spoken by others who lived long before His ministry. I, of course, can counter, based on my beliefs, that, yes, Christ did teach a foundational timeless wisdom because Jesus, being God with us, is the original author. 
So, I’m going to launch from that premise. If God the Creator of all things devised a universal plan whereby all things should/ought to work in harmony, then He is the ultimate designer of goodness, of right and wrong, of things that work to add to, multiply and enhance as opposed to things that deduct, divide and destroy. This universal law is like an undeclared law of physics, which, by the way, God created as well as all other natural laws. Whether applied on a huge scale or down to the smallest function of humanity, i.e., how humans treat one another, there is a ubiquitous, God-designed order that covers whether or not the outcome of an action will have good or bad results, bear fruit or wither.
But this grand Edict of Good was devised and put in place by a Sovereign God Who knew that mankind was too immature to understand and apply it. Like babies, mankind is too egocentric and self-motivated. Self. There’s that word again. It pops up in nearly every discussion of good vs evil, God vs Satan. It is the binding that restrains us from emptying ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit, Who is able to implement God’s perfect law of Good and bear good fruit. In every reprobated generation of God’s chosen people, SELF, self-gratification, self-aggrandizing, self-promotion, self-love, has been at the root of the failure to rise to true, God ordained and divined goodness. The result of SELF determining what is good is at best a counterfeit goodness, a goodness that seems good on the outside, meets all criteria for manmade determined good and also believes completely in itself to be as good as any goodness God ever made. Unfortunately, it is nothing more than good for goodness sake.  This mandates that genuine goodness be replaced and then eventually challenged as not acceptable because it isn’t good enough by humanity’s skewed standards. Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, there can’t be a God because God would never allow such pain and suffering in the world.” Or, “If God is so good, why did He let this happen to me?” Or, “I can do whatever I want, believe whatever I want because God is love, or God isn’t paying attention anymore, or God doesn’t care about this kind of stuff.” 
Putting an even finer point on it, the line between what has been adopted and accepted as good by a self-serving, self-centered culture and what is the real deal good as defined by God is perilously blurred; one must have acute vision to tell the difference but that vision comes only by letting go of self so that Christ can come into focus.
This reminds me of a great quote whose author I could not find: Never mistake the will of the majority for the will of God. Using discernment and plain old experience I am generally suspicious of goodness as defined by a stream of consciousness majority vote especially if it leaves God out, or worse, gives a vague, (little g) god credit for it to add the weight of divine authority, i.e, mother nature, universe, cosmic reality. 
Three New Testament passages talk about the goodness of man: Romans 15:14, Galatians 5:22, and Ephesians 5:9. The latter two say that goodness is a fruit of the Spirit. That is, when we have the Spirit of God, the Word of God, in us then goodness is one of the things that will automatically grow in us. Clearly this refers to the goodness God created as a physical law that governs ongoing, fruitful existence. It does not cover the oft changing shallow “goodness” mankind embraces because it satisfies SELF and feels good at the moment, providing acceptable rationale for otherwise unacceptable behavior. 
So, I’m rethinking who I quote now because I’d rather get my wisdom from a tried and true, reliable authority than from a vague and possibly degenerate source. I’m just not willing to settle for fake, imitation goodness anymore. 
Luke 16:15 (NIV) [Jesus] said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight."