“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Mark 10: 18
I’ve always found Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler to be a bit troubling. Jesus wasn’t good? Then what chance have I got?
If I’m being truthful I like to think of myself as pretty good, a B+ on the heavenly grading scale. Oh sure, I know I’m not perfect, but I like to think I’m not like “them,” the invisible, unwashed masses of sinners, you know the ones, the big sinners, the philanderers and cheaters and liars and thieves.
When I indulge this desire to be my own god I set aside the truth that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 8:28), and that all includes me. Jesus does not distinguish the “big sinners” from the “little sinners” because that is like trying to distinguish the kind of dead from the really dead; dead is dead. And as Ravi Zacharias likes to say:
“Jesus did not come to make bad people good; He came to make dead people alive.”
As I’ve gotten older my walk with the Lord has become less about about trying to earn God’s favor and more about responding to His amazing grace. I started to think about my effort to do the right thing as a humble, if inadequate, expression of gratitude. While still unavoidable I learned that my sin is covered by Christ’s sacrifice.
Lately though, I’m beginning to see good in yet a new way: It’s not about me at all. Instead it is a divine conspiracy intended to snatch up as many people into the arms of the Lord as possible. (See Revelation 12:5.) Because I’ve been blessed to be saved God calls on me to join the rescue effort by doing just one thing:
Love one another as you love yourself (Mark 12:31)
It doesn’t take long to realize that it is a tall order because others can be so much harder to love than sweet little me. When I examine my own thoughts, words and deeds they are so often filled with my own selfish desires: What’s in it for me? What’s best for me? What impact do things have on me? Me, me, me, me.
Recently God is teaching me that doing good is about allowing His spirit to turn that same lavish attention and affection outward. To “die to one’s self” is as simple (and as difficult) as substituting him, her or their best interest in the space usually reserved for me. In this case even “doing good” is no longer about me. It’s not about me earning God’s favor or my place in heaven; that work has already been done by Jesus.
It’s about getting out of the way and being His hands and feet and heart so that others can experience God’s love through me. I’ll admit I’m not very good at this. Turning away from a life of me is not easily done.
- The person I consider not worth my time Jesus challenges me to love and extend the same grace He gave to me.
- That time I’d rather spend Saturday morning relaxing and doing something for me He asks me to use serving others…joyfully.
- The guy whose favorite adjective, noun and verb all begin with “f” He encourages me to share my “f” word with: faith.
- When I approach my child assuming the worst-case scenario He rebukes me to begin from a place of trust and love.
God uses such moments to bless others, but He also allows His love to be reflected back to bless the bearer. In these moments it’s easy to give God the glory for what has been accomplished because such work is so clearly outside of my capabilities.
Right now God is teaching me these things. Right now I am striving to listen and obey, and get out of the way of what He is up to.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16