Summary: Goodness is a quality that opens us up to all kinds of opportunities to share faith. Christian goodness is the access point for a skeptical world to the goodness of God.
A Recipe for a Life Well Lived
A funny thing happens at funerals. Nearly always, good things are said about the deceased. People who are doing the remembering seem either to only be able to remember the good things about the person, or they feel it is only proper to talk about the good things about the deceased.
I’ve been to a lot of funerals and that’s something I’ve observed. It seems when we come to the end of life, what matters is the good that we do. The bad that we may do doesn’t count for much, or at least people don’t want to spend too much time remembering it.
I saw a bumper sticker once that said: “Live so that the preacher doesn’t have to lie at your funeral”. As a preacher, I can appreciate that sentiment.
We’re going to be looking at three passages today that focus on goodness as we start to wrap up our series on the fruit of the Spirit. We have been reading the passage from Galatians 5 each week that talks about the Fruit of the Spirit, so we won’t re-read that passage which includes, of course, the fruit of goodness.
Instead let’s start with a reading from 2 Peter 1:5-8. [Reader reads passage]
Here we have a recipe for a life well-lived. A combination of traits that, we are told, keep us from wasting our lives…being ineffective and unproductive in life…and that help to turn our knowledge of God into a truly transformed life.
Any knowledge we gain and do not use is useless knowledge. Most of the things there are to learn about life, about ourselves and others and about God become meaningful as we share our lives with others.
And knowledge of the mind is not somehow unspiritual while knowledge of the heart or of the spirit somehow is spiritual. To quote Rob Bell, everything is spiritual.
We’re told also that we need to possess these qualities that were read to us in increasing measure. And since we’re focussing on the idea of the fruit of the Spirit, we can understand that fruit that doesn’t keeping growing from its seed-form to maturity really does have no purpose.
If you notice, the first thing we’re encouraged to add to our faith is goodness. What does faith without goodness look like? Is it possible to possess faith without goodness?
I think the chief complaint about religious people, in fact, is that it’s observed by critics that Christians are no different in their behaviours than non-Christians.
When I was in college I had a very cocky teacher who challenged the class, and specifically a 20 year-old woman who had been to a Catholic high school, with this question: “What difference does it make in your conduct that you went to religious school”?
He was quite aggressive and even told us that he could take anyone of us who claimed a faith and could, with a friend of his, convert them to atheism in two days.
The young woman was intimidated and said that it made no difference. Most of the class was thrown by the question and did not respond, other than to shift in their seats. I was no different.
There are words we might connect to the idea of faith without goodness. Hypocrisy. Religiosity. For some, bigotry.
What’s been the effect in your own life of people who claimed a faith or claimed to be religious or claimed to be Christians, and yet who were dour or humourless, selfish or hypocritical? It’s a big turn-off, isn’t it? It repels rather than attracts. It give fuel to the critics of faith. It can seem to validate the argument that some try to make that faith is pointless.
But you and I also know and have known people who’s faith was contagious, who’s take on life and on God was very attractive and appealing. And it probably was not faith accompanied by miracles of the usual sort.
More likely, it was a quiet and gentle faith, part of the evidence of a life well-lived. A thoughtful and humble faith that didn’t assert itself or its own rightness. It was PROBABLY a life bracketed and filled with some measure of goodness.
So what does it mean to add goodness to our lives, to our faith. There’s an odd passage in the gospel of Mark. It reads like this: As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him.
"Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. Mark 10:17-18 I’ve heard people use that passage in an effort to try and prove that Jesus is not God. That’s a weak understanding of this passage.