What Does it Mean to be Good?

This is actually kind of an important topic, so bear with me if you will.

In C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, one of the notions Lewis has is that, in the eyes of God, for a man who is naturally cruel to refrain from an act of cruelty is a greater thing than for a man who is naturally altruistic to sacrifice his life–the Biblical justification for this, I suppose, being the incident of the widow’s mite being applied to morality.

Well, here we have an interesting question. Consider the following: If a man looks upon a woman with lust in his heart, he has committed adultery; if he should be exceedingly angry with another man, it is as bad as murder.

Well then, it seems like a bit of a raw deal for folks with either heightened sex drives or bad tempers, or various other deep-seated psychological/physiological issues gained through no particular fault of their own.

And let’s face it, at one level or another, that’s all of us. All of us have something in our brains that isn’t wired quite right. Somewhere this Wednesday night, sitting next to the man who has difficulty controlling his rage when he sees the fellow who bullied him in high school was his wife, who judges the woman sitting back three rows because, back in high school, she had a child out of wedlock. Sitting a bit down from them was a man who’s been squelching unspeakable desires since he hit puberty, and his wife, who judges the woman three rows ahead of them for having a clean past. Somewhere else in the church, as it happened, was another husband and wife, who are very close friends with the previously mentioned couples. They were both proud, the husband proud of the fact that he was not as corrupted as the other two, while the wife was proud of her lack of pride compared to the other two.

I don’t know who these people are, but I’m pretty sure they exist, in some shape, form, or fashion.

So, what do we do, then? Give up? Hardly–that just makes the problem worse. Now we’re sinning in thought and word and/or deed.

Keep acting like there’s no problem? Well, apparently it’s not going that well.

Confess it to everyone? Don’t think so. There doesn’t seem to be a command to “Get up and spill your deepest darkest secrets and thoughts” in the Scripture, and it would also wreck your life.

However, I think Jesus provided us with a hint in Matthew 5, where he talked about thought being as bad as deed. He also talked about how to deal with that. In the section on anger, Jesus tells us to go and get things right ASAP, and in the section on adultery to get away by any means necessary. Take note: Jesus does not say, “do this when you feel like it, because if you don’t feel like it or haven’t fixed your problems it doesn’t mean anything.”

He says, “Do it.”

I don’t quite know how to do that–and, most likely, neither do you. And if I did, I’m not sure if I would. But maybe that’s the answer. To walk in the way of the Lord, and trust that He will untwist us, with maturity and medicine, both spiritual and temporal.

What does it mean to be good? Doing what God wants, in thought and word and deed, even when nothing in you wants any part of it.

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness


2 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to be Good?

  1. This seriously changes a massive outlook on the definition of good for me! I am a strong Christian, but I find myself – admittedly, automatically comparing my “goodness” to others. Thank you so much for this post. It was a great read and I am truly happy you tackled this topic.

    • Not a problem. It was something that had been on my mind recently, and I think something we often need to think about. Thank you kindly, and I hope you keep reading and enjoying and learning.

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