A friend said to me that age has taught him a valuable lesson about the word good. Time has blurred the line between what is good and what is bad. Perhaps a better way to talk about it is to say that experience has blurred the line.
When my friend was diagnosed with cancer he thought it was a bad thing. However, when family and friends and strangers responded to him with an outpouring of love the cancer diagnosis became a good thing. Many people suddenly had time for him and expressed their joy for having known him.
My friend’s story sounds like a lot of people’s stories about the perception of what is good and bad, only the subject changes. The loss of a loved one awakens us to the presence of God and community, the end of a career opens the door to talents and passions we didn’t know existed, and the sudden entrance of a child into a controlled and quiet household treats us one of the greatest love stories we have ever known.
As a Christian pastor I am aware that Jesus was quick to challenge us in our perception of what is good when he climbed the mountain early in his ministry and taught the crowds The Beatitudes. The fifth chapter of Matthew and the sixth chapter of Luke is early, isn’t it?
Jesus reminds us that from God’s perspective spiritual poverty is a good thing, as is sorrow, humility, the exercising of God’s grace, the willingness to forgive, an undivided heart, working for peace, and experiencing persecution when it is the result of embracing all of humanity with great love and understanding, like Jesus. I do not know about you, but when I was quite young I did not make sorrow or persecution for compassion’s sake my life’s goal.
Current events in our nation has positioned an interesting question before us and I paraphrase, “What is good and where does it come from?” Luke records a story in the 18th chapter about a ruler addressing Jesus as “Good Teacher.” Jesus responds, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” What Luke’s story asks of us is to remember that to be good is to be loving, and goodness originates with God and not humanity.
Humbling, isn’t it? Goodness is gift; mysterious. You and I cannot poses it, predict it, or program it. It is not subject to age or gender or race or economic status or religious affiliation or political persuasion. It is the possession of something greater than ourselves and that something greater than ourselves has ways that are not our own.
What we can do is surrender to it, and marvel at its appearance.
When it comes to desiring good neighbors and national citizens, we want to remember that loving neighbors are what we both long for and long to be, and that we don’t know when that is going to happen, or where, or how. Love comes from the most unexpected places and people. That’s part of the joy.
The Rev. Dana Keener is an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and has served in the ministry for more than 35 years. She is the pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 311 Power St., Helena, where all are welcome. A Spiritual Director, she has a certificate of Spiritual Direction from the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, Maryland. You can find the congregation on Facebook and on the web at fcchelena.org, and contact the church by calling 442-3525 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.