Our Struggle with Goodness

It’s easy to expect criticism of lifestyle, sexual-orientation, and hypocritical behavior from Christians. But most people are good people. Jesus would agree. But with a twist.

Kristen is so respected by her peers. She has a great paying job and lives in a cool studio apartment in the city. She has a huge heart for the community and volunteers at the homeless shelter once a month. She’s thinking of signing up as a tutor for elementary school kids at the learning center near her neighborhood. None of her friends are aware of the depths of her drinking problem.

Randy works on the IT/Tech staff at the fast-growing church in town. He is a new Christian who’s excited about his work and the great vibe among the other young Christians he’s around. He’s single and has kept quiet about being gay. He’s troubled by the muted stance his church leadership seems to have on LGBTQ issues. He knows that Jesus spoke about Love, and believes that the church, of all places, should be loving and accepting of all people, regardless of who they love.

Chris has worked and invested wisely. He’s always focused on being a good husband to his wife and dad to his 3 children. They go to the local church, though not as much now as he used to when he was young. It’s a bit boring for his middle and high school aged kids, and they now have conflicting sporting events on Sundays. When they do go, he always puts a $20 bill in the offering basket. A few years ago he volunteered a few hours a month on the church missions committee.

Is there anything wrong here?

Looks like normal people in normal modern day life to me. Surprised? You might be expecting some criticism of lifestyle, sexual-orientation, hypocritical behavior, lack of church attendance – all the things of which Christians are expected to be critical. And often are in no uncertain terms.

But those typically expected Christian responses are out of sorts in today’s culture. They are anathema to most people. Actually, most in our culture today would say, and Christians should be included, that Kristen, Randy, and Chris are all good people just trying to do the best they can.

And Jesus would agree. Although with a twist.

How Does Jesus Deal with Lifestyle and Behavior?
To put all of our differences in choices and habits and lifestyles in context, it may be helpful to review an incident cited in Chapter 7 of the Gospel of Luke involving Jesus dining as a guest at the home of a wealthy religious leader. Here is the full text:

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, (a laborer’s daily wage) and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)

It seems that Jesus is more concerned about heart and devotion toward Him rather than behavior. But then to close the behavioral loophole, only a few chapters later, Jesus harshly chastises another religious leader who looks good on the outside but is full of evil intent and behavior:

Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! (Luke 11:39-40)

Goodness = Jesus Devotion + Jesus-like Behavior
Here are 4 points to consider in observing the lives of Kristen, Randy, and Chris:

  1. The Lord God is Judge, Not Us – we may have our opinions but the Lord God will judge us all at the appointed time. (Psalm 9:7-8)
  2. Abide in Jesus Alone – regardless of our past or present, we can begin a deep connection and relationship with Jesus through intentional devotion to Him as the source of renewed life. (John 15:1-8)
  3. Goodness and Purpose Come from Abiding in Jesus – behavioral changes that do not conform to the pattern of this world spring from a Jesus-transformed heart, mind, and will. (Romans 12:1-2)
  4. We Can Be Forgiven – regardless of our past or present, we can be forgiven and restored to wholeness in life and relationship with the Lord God. (1 John 1:9)

Who are we to each other but fellow sinful sojourners in a world filled with pain and separation from God? Fortunately, God has provided a way back to fullness and richness through Christ, the One we each must deal with in this life if we are to be intellectually and spiritually honest. Only through Christ is real goodness found.

Do you struggle with goodness? 
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. – John 3:17

Categories: Abundant Living, Calling, Devotion, Discipleship, Evil, Faith, Forgiveness, Jesus

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