What is Good?

When looking through the channels Sunday morning, I get over the air reception, I decided to see what some of the more obscure looking ones were. There was a lot of church stuff on. One of the obscure channels had a program where a man said something akin to, “You see this pattern over and over again where sin brings failure and problems and then there is repentance, which brings success.” Well, I’ve just been reading the book of Job, where Job has everything taken from him. It’s well known that Job didn’t do anything wrong. Furthermore, Job’s friends keep accusing him of having done something, even if he won’t admit it. They keep urging him to repent and Job keeps saying that he doesn’t have any reason to repent. Job’s friends seem to be on the same side as the TV preacher, always trying to get right with God and unwilling to admit that you can be right with God and also suffer. What gives?

We know inherently that breaking the law, the rules, the right order brings a set of things. First of all it may bring shame. If we are titillated, or tempted, or compelled and the part of ourselves that ‘knows better’ doesn’t want to and we do anyway, we will most likely experience shame. Beyond what we might feel, there might also be real consequences. The police might get us. This could be something like a traffic ticket or worse. Assuming we agree with the rules we might swallow that and accept the rebuke. The TV preacher probably was talking about this. That rebuke can change us for the better.

Sometimes we reason that the rules have consequences if we get caught, but that it isn’t really all that bad to break them. People who take this attitude might do so for various reasons. Maybe they’re right, and the rules are silly, or even wrong. Conversely, those people might be wrong. Sometimes a rule breaking attitude arises out of selfishness. For those people breaking the rules might come with actual consequences, like if you beat your children and they grow up to turn their backs on you. In that case you might wind up dying alone.  Most of us would like to see those kinds of ‘sins’ bring consequences right away, such that those who suffer the consequences might either change, or at least pay some price. Most of us understand that whole thing about the wages of sin being death as having something to do with this.

The thing is, we might actually be kind of programmed to see sin, like Job’s friends. We might actually be so programmed for it that we visit upon ourselves a whole host of psychological disorders related to shame, even if we haven’t done anything. Part of consciousness is emotion, and our emotions don’t come from nothing. They arrive out of a subconscious array of expectations.

There is another way of looking at the issue of sin, and it relates to the idea of what good is. An example of this is Jesus’ reaction to his executioners when they put him to death. During the whole ordeal He didn’t say anything to them. He kept His mouth shut. When Pilot asked why Jesus simply said that this wouldn’t be happening to Him unless God was permitting it. Jesus didn’t blow His own trumpet about His own righteousness, like Job did, but their stories are similar.

All of this brings to mind the question I’ve already raised: what is good? If we can accept that man is not born good, in the sense that we don’t obey the law naturally from birth, does that mean that obeying the law makes a person good? I don’t think we can say that, and not simply because something we call sin, which sets up our expectations, taints us. The reason, really, is that the law can teach obedience, but it can’t teach love for what it is pointing to. For being good can only come about by loving what is right. To do what is right by mere compulsion, and rebuke is compulsion, does not change a man. To change a man it takes love. Love dictates direction. It creates and orders our intention. If we love what is right then we will do what is right.

Yeah, you might be saying: define right, or good. Well, if you think about it, you have to admit that a person can’t be good, so the deliberate sinners can’t somehow become good by not sinning anymore and the non-sinners can’t be called good because of their lack of sin. Goodness is an abstract quality. As an abstract quality it doesn’t exist in the flesh. Neither can it be brought round to a specific outlook like the selfish one we get from having a point of view brought about by being conscious. Good doesn’t care who you are, except that you have as much value as anybody else does. Goodness is, therefore, inclusive. This is why the bible says that God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. And why we are urged to consider that and treat others the same way. It’s also why the bible says that, for Jesus, goodness and mercy would follow Him all the days of His life, not that He would be good.

Jesus boiled down the law to two things: love God with your whole self and love your neighbor as yourself. He used the word love when He said it too. The law was meant to point to goodness, you must certainly see that. Jesus did.

What I am getting at is this: isn’t it obvious that what God wants from man is for him to love goodness? That loving goodness means that you seek its outcomes. Furthermore, that the seeking of those outcomes ought to come without regard for results. The lack of complaint is about that, isn’t it? We are not asked to try on goodness only if it works, in other words. We are asked for it to become a part of us. For it to influence who we are. We are to understand that loving goodness will cause us to follow it, and therefore for it to follow us, regardless of whether doing good brings disaster to our own personal constructs.

We are always being told that the wonderful thing about man is that God has given him freewill. If you understand what freewill is you will know that it doesn’t mean to do whatever you want whenever you want to. If that is your definition of freewill, then every animal has freewill and man is nothing special. No, the definition of freewill includes something about the ability to choose what you think is right regardless of whether the outcome supports your choice. You might weigh whether what you thought was right really was based upon the outcomes of your beliefs, but you are not compelled by your belly to act. You are compelled by your inner self, your spirit, the untethered part of your consciousness that is not born connected to a whole greater than itself, but needs it in order to become part of that.

You can see that God is not really asking that much from you, except everything that leads the other way. When it comes to goodness, though, He has tried to point out as much as He can that it is worth it. Furthermore, as Christ Himself stated, He has given you a helper, the Spirit of Truth. As much as goodness is anything, if you have been following this writing you will see that it is truth. So, God is asking you to choose, to choose what will persist in the face of any calamity, to choose life.





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