What is good? What is goodness? How do you know what is good? Who gets to define what is good?
Dictionary.com (one of my favorite sites btw–I know I am a nerd!) defines good as “morally excellent, virtuous, righteous, or pious.”
But what in our world fits that definition? We could mention a lot of things–loving others, serving others, giving to the needy, and cultivating friendships are all good things right? But who gets to decide what is truly good, what is best? Who decides what is good?
There are two possible answers to this question:
1. People–we, men and women, get to decide what is good based on what we think is best for ourselves and perhaps society.
2. God–God, being creator of this universe, decided in eternity past what is good. To truly understand what is good we must submit to Him.
Let’s play out this scenario. If we get to decide what is good–then there is no objective standard for goodness. Many postmoderns would readily admit that they believe that there is no objective standard of good or evil. Lets play this thinking out just a little–if there is no objective standard for what is good, then my goodness is mine and yours is yours. So what happens when my goodness rubs up against yours? One of us is going down right?
What if I believed that everyone should wear blue jeans because shorts are evil–that is foundational to my internal standard of goodness. I believe it so fervently, that I think everyone should wear blue jeans all the time and people who wear shorts are evil and the world is better off without them. Seems like a crazy view to have right? But if I really believe this and am going to live consistently in light of what I believe, I am going to do everything I can to take all you short-wearers down!
Sounds silly right? Well it’s not too far from what other people think–think about the radical Islamic terrorists that flew those planes into the World Trade Center. They thought what they were doing was right and good. To them it was a good thing to fly those planes into those buildings and kill thousands of people. They felt that it was worth giving up their lives and killing others to serve their standard of goodness.
You will object that its just religious radicals that are accomplishing such evil feats based on their worldview. Well what about what many secular people think is good. Take abortion for instance, most secular folks believe that abortion is some sense a good thing–saves women and children from poverty and difficulty etc. If you think that abortion is good on some level, how long until partial birth abortion is considered good, then what is keeping us from believing in the moral goodness of infanticide for those mothers who cannot afford an abortion? If we give into infanticide, what is keeping us from getting rid of anyone in particular that we deem doesn’t deserve to live because they interfere with our standard of goodness or because we think we now what is good for them and it is not to live? Sounds crazy right–if you believe that unborn children are children, then these sorts of things are the next logical steps.
If people define what is good, our standard of goodness will be me-centered and selfish. I will determine what is good primarily on what is good for me. If the God of the Bible, however defines what is good, then goodness is perhaps more others-centered.
When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus responded by saying, “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31). He also tells us that greater love has no one than this “that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:33). When called “good teacher,” Jesus makes clear what calling him “good” implies by saying, “no one is good but God alone.” So when you call Jesus good you are calling Him God! And only God is good. The Bible tells us that no one is good (Romans 3:10)–sin has corrupted us in a profound way such that we have become consummed with ourselves and apart from God’s help we will remain that way.
Only through God can we truly know what is good and only through His son can we be restored to a right understanding and appreciation of goodness.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
True goodness, true love is defined by God and He has most profoundly demonstrated it to us through Christ’s death and resurrection on behalf of those who are not good!