Sunday, July 15, 2012

Doing good

"I read in a book that a man called Christ went about doing good. It is very disconcerting to me that I am so easily satisfied with just going about."
Toyohiko Kagawa, Japanese follower of Jesus

How do you define "good"? What would be on your list of "good" things that you do?

I read this quote this morning in Common Prayer, and it strikes me that when you ask most USAmerican believers, the answers probably seem to be couched in terms of personal or societal morality. I "do good" when I don't cheat on my taxes or my spouse, when I don't lose my temper with my kids or my boss, when I vote for the pro-life or pro-democracy candidate, when I give my tithes and offerings to the church...

All of these can truly be good things. 

But the real power of good is not morality, it is impact on the other. Good is ultimately defined in how the life of someone else is changed, not how my life is changed. I start to practice "good" when I love my neighbor as myself.

Can this definition of "good" as the impact on the other change our thinking on morality, on politics, on theology? Does "love your neighbor as yourself" have anything to say about how we treat the unborn, or how we treat their mother? Does it impact the words we use when discuss those who disagree with us? Does it impact laws we pass about the poor, the immigrant, the orphan? Does it change our views on what kinds of goods (weird choice of word for "stuff" don't you think?) we buy, or where we buy them? Does "good" have something to do with governments' choices of sponsoring violence to counteract violence?

Is the sum total of "good" really about my personal morality or about society's morality? Or is it about how my choices affect every other person, and the societal systems in which we all live?

There is no such thing as "good" in a vacuum. You cannot be good alone. Just ask the early desert fathers. Good is all about the other.

May I not be so easily satisfied with "just going about."

1 comment:

Aaron Deck said...

Arnie, Thanks I needed that reminder a great deal! Human nature at is best--It's all about me! Our increasingly self-centric society encourages the ALL ABOUT ME approach to life--to which I am all to guilty of succumbing. Thanks again for the reminder that Christ came to serve not to be served. As Christians we are to be Christ-like not me-like. Your friend in Christ, Aaron