Monday, January 4, 2010

Coffee, Mice, God, and other good things

Define the word “good.” Take some time and really think about what this word means to you.

Did you think of your favorite food? A person that you love? An enjoyable pastime? A place where you had moment of joy? How do you define “good”?

Maybe you immediately added “for you” to the word, and your image was vitamins, exercise, or going to church. Is this the right way to define “good”?

This question puzzles me. I like good things and I believe the things I like are good. So if I don’t like something it is “bad”, and I stay away from it. For me good is a cold Mountain Dew and Snickers bar first thing in the morning, followed by cup after cup of coffee so strong a mouse could trot across it without sinking. Good is sushi with a friend, a great road trip, and an intriguing book. Bad is the dentist, diet pop, and fast food burgers. Bad is aerobics, Will Farrell movies, and being alone on a Saturday night.

We all have our list of good and bad things. I just have to wonder how often our definitions are in conflict with the people around me. My ex-roomate hates Mountain Dew, the peanuts in a Snickers bar make Nathan break out, and the thought of drinking my coffee makes David shudder. So are these things good?

The Bible talks a lot about the things that are good. We talk about how all things work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28). So what is this good that all things are working together for?

Is it stuff I like? Things you like?

Or are we depending on our definition a little too much? Are we being just a little narcissistic when we read this verse and treat it like our own personal guarantee that all things are going to be good? What if the definition goes farther than what we like? Or even what is good for us? What if good is something bigger than a single individual?

There was once a man who called Jesus “good Teacher.” Jesus responded with only God is good. (Matthew 19:17) Wait a minute. . . if we accept Jesus’ definition of good, then we have to totally reevaluate how we define the word. It stops being about the things I do or don’t like, and becomes about the things God likes.

And what does God like? The answer is easy really. Paul gives it away in the next verse of Romans – that we be conformed to the image of his Son, that he may be the first born of many. Good isn’t about whether not we like something, it isn’t even about eating our spinach, it’s about becoming more like our savior.

Good is about having a relationship with the only one who is truly good. Paul isn’t writing us a promise that we like all the things about the process of becoming conformed to Jesus’ image, he is reminding us that all the hard stuff is worth it. He encouraging us not to become embittered with the process and remember where we are heading – deeper into relationship with a God who loves us.

So the next time someone tells you to have a good day, watched a good movie, or that they just read a really good book, stop to ask yourself is it good? Really?

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