Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What is "good"?

Good Friday

Good News = Gospel

"It is not good that the man should be alone."

"We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."

"No one is good but God alone."

"Good" is an ordinary word.  If I were grading a paper, then I would suggest the student find a better adjective than "good"; it doesn't communicate much.

Yet it's a word that communicates much within Christianity.

God alone is good.  His death on Friday is good.  His message, his story is good news.  His creation is good, yet it's not good for man to be alone. 

"Good" is a loaded word here.  I suspect we attribute all sorts of meanings, ideas, and feelings to the word when we read it in the Bible.  I worry that our attributes are not congruent with what the Bible means.

This comes to mind most often when someone quotes Romans 8:28, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."  This idea is sung in a popular worship song with the words, "He makes all things work together for my good."  When we speak or sing these words, what do we have in mind, and do our thoughts correspond with what we know of God?

For example, there are times in the Bible when God commands armies to fight, and they get beat, which means lots of people die.  What good is God working out there?  Is it good for the wives and children of the fallen soldiers?  Maybe there's a sort of collective good in stories of war.  But collective good, and "he makes all things work together for my good," are not the same thing.  

I've written before of how I'm careful what words I utter to God in worship.  The above is one of those song lyrics I don't sing.  Specifically, I leave out the word "my."  That personalizes and individualizes a declaration of truth that I'm uncomfortable personalizing and individualizing.  

I will sing and declare that God works together for good.  I don't suppose to know what that "good" is, or that it will necessarily be good for me.  I am just as vulnerable to being on the losing end of collective good as anyone else.  

While "good" is a word I throw around casually and with little thought, it's one I need to ponder and study more in the Bible.  I suspect God has a different understanding of what is "good" than I do.

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