Friday, January 8, 2016

Defining "Goodness"

There are few books that truly rock me and shake my foundation - standing out as profound amidst the countless others I read. But "Saving Amelie" did just that, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.

Have you ever truly considered the essence of humanity? What it means to be human? Or even deserving of such a title? It breaks my heart to think back on Hilter's Nazi Germany and realize that the real tragedy of what happened was the devaluing of one life over another.

Hitler decided that one variety of humanity took precedence over every other. He trained a generation of young people to believe that anyone who was outwardly "broken" was undeserving of life. "Life unworthy of life." It wasn't just Jews - though such discrimination against race and religion isn't any easier to swallow.

But where then, do we derive this concept of inherent worth? Is there even such a thing... I'll dare to challenge you that every time we abort a pregnancy because of down syndrome, deafness or blindness, we are practicing the very same principle of eugenics Hitler valued.

When we discuss inherent worth, Christians fall back on the fact that we're all created by God, regardless of flaws - which are a side effect of "the fall." But somehow, we've come to see flaws as outward. Flaws are something that's obvious, like your appearance or abilities. We even throw in so-called "BIG" sins - like murder - everything else can be explained away and justified.

Still... the reality remains that we've all lied, envied, hated, blamed, cheated and hurt. And once those faults come to light - or at least we're made aware of them - it becomes painfully clear that each one of us is broken. No one is righteous, not one - all have fallen short Rom. 3.

If that's true... that we're all broken, whether physically or spiritually... then by Hitler's estimation, there is no one who is deserving of life. Whether earthly or eternal. So where on earth did this concept of "good person" come from? Have we all duped ourselves into believing we know goodness? Is there even such a thing?

For many, all they know is this life, so they hope to leave a legacy, praying that those left behind will forget their inadequacies.

For others, who hope for the hereafter, they trust that their "goodness" will earn them a place in heaven. Like a scale, they pray their good will outweigh the bad.

And for many Christians - who self proclaim their eternity is secure - God is too holy to approach. Once they become aware of their own shortcomings, they back away from the throne of God, hoping to fix themselves (make themselves good enough) before they come before Him, ready for heaven.

Yet, if the standard for deserving peace upon death is "goodness" and not one of us are truly good - then all of humanity is doomed and there is no hope. We're all broken.

If you're counting on a good reputation, rest assured - your flaws will come to light when your children open their mouths.

And if you hope you life was lived more "good" than bad, then how are you to ever know? The mind is unreliable, and all the lies, unkind words and thoughts blend together into a fuzzy haze. Your friends are likely to be gracious - but inside, well, who's to know if you were MOSTLY good?

And for the Christian... God's standard is perfection. You stand no chance of getting yourself right before approaching the throne. You could never be righteous enough.

Don't you GET IT? We're all broken.

It's all written down in the gospel. Jesus didn't count the self-righteous priests as worthy. For all their outward "goodness" they were broken inside. They broke their own rules either in secret or in their hearts. Yet, in the years he walked among us, Jesus embraced the broken - the tax collector who robbed citizens by overcharging them; the prostitute; the fishermen who likely flunked out of entering religious profession. They were broken and they knew it.

When Jesus entered the house of the tax collector, Zacchaeus, he told the astonished crowd (who considered themselves to be more "good" than this cheat), "Today, salvation has come to this house, because this man too, is a son of Abraham. For the son of man came to seek and to save the lost." Luke 19.

It's humbling... It's so easy to place ourselves on a scale next to someone "more broken" and consider ourselves more worthy. More good.

But we're all broken - imperfect. Which entirely levels the playing field, leaving everyone in dire need of saving from death. After all, Hitler considered the broken to be, "life unworthy of life."

I'm sorry if bringing up Hitler's standard is shocking to you. It shocked me when I read Saving Amelie. But it proves a point.

In the book of Mark, chapter 2, Jesus encountered a man who is paralyzed. And before a crowd, he tells the man that his faults are forgotten (it says "your sins are forgiven," but sin means "to miss the mark" and forgiven means to give up claim... to let go... it doesn't matter anymore) When questioned, he tells the crowd, "Why do you questions these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins."

When you think of Jesus, who is he? He claimed to be God. So was he just a good man who said a lot of good things? But I have to tell you, either he was who he claimed to be, or he was lying. And if Jesus was lying, then we can't label him a good man, because he based his life off of that claim to be the son of God. In John 10:30 he says, "I and the Father are one."

Do you know what else he says in John 10?

He compares his people to sheep and himself to their shepherd. There's only one way into the sheepfold, and that's through the gate. Anyone else is a thief and a robber.

There's only one way into heaven. And you don't have to be perfect to get in, you just have to be his. For this reason, he laid down his life for the sheep. He placed himself between his sheep and the wolves, sacrificing himself to protect them.

Therefore, his own blood was shed to cover our imperfections, so that they might be forgotten when we stand before the Father. Instead, God sees the blood of his own Son, and counts us as His own. That is how you enter by the gate into the sheepfold.

There is not other way to be certain of your eternity.

Because we're all broken, and what is broken cannot enter unless it has been made whole by His blood. Made perfect by the sacrifice of the one who lived a perfect life and died for those underserving. But He didn't stay dead, he arose, conquering an eternal death. And it is only through him that we can have eternity.

Because on my own, I'm just not good enough, and no matter how hard I try, I can't be. I say all the wrong things and I make more mistakes than could be recalled. My goodness looks pale in comparison to perfection.

And so, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is LORD, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the Dead, you will be saved, for everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved Rom 10:9-13.

Some Christians sum it up as the ABC's. And trust me, it's not all that complicated in concept to trust yourself into God's care.

We call it the ABC's, because it conveniently stands for Admit, Believe, Confess.

A - Admit to God that You're a sinner and ask for His forgiveness 
B - Believe that Jesus is God's son and that He came into the world as Savior 
C - Confess your faith in Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord, because there is no other. 
It's really that simple. And you don't have to be perfect, you just have to be His. There are no other prerequisites, and nothing else with count in place.

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