What does it mean to be good?
Dictionary.com defines good as:
This definition provides more synonyms than it does meaning, but it’s an accurate reflection of how our society defines the ambiguity of this pesky four letter word.
I was having a conversation with a coworker and fellow believer a few weeks ago regarding the relationship between God and man. Though we agreed on most matters, the few ideas we differed on were astonishingly canonical. It’s interesting how shared belief doesn’t necessarily denote the manner in which that belief is carried out from person to person.
One of our major disagreements raised the question of whether human beings are innately good or evil. I held that we are naturally corrupt, while she was of the persuasion that we are intrinsically good beings, who sometimes do bad things. We were equally astounded by our opposing views. With gentle ears and open minds, we delved into discourse, determined to reveal the true heart of man.
From a biblical standpoint, if we are naturally good, why did Jesus have to die on a cross for our sins? If the capability to be good resided in us naturally, God would’ve never allowed for the torment and agonizing death of his son. Jesus’ sacrifice was a raw depiction of our inability to prove ourselves worthy by our own might. Yet, God did not create us as slaves and has therefore given us the liberty of free will. But look at how we have squandered it: malice and destruction have all but swallowed the soul of humanity.
How can a people who are only upright when it pleases us, assign an inexorable definition to a word so far removed from who we are? Is a monkey more adept at being a horse than a horse itself? Our idea of good is ultimately an attempt to imitate what God so inherently is. We can’t possibly qualify ourselves to define what it is to be good over the God who gave definition to the word by his very existence.
We exist in a culture that promotes the idea of living your truth. In this iteration of reality, good and bad become relative to the individual, the situation, and the emotions surrounding them. As humans, our idea of good is based largely on personal experience. Too often, we use our feelings to define reality: a slippery slope indeed. It’s no longer a matter of right or wrong, only what feels best. This mentality encourages open interpretation for virtually every aspect of life, regardless of how unfounded our truths may be. Emotions are erratic, changing as often as our circumstances, and are therefore inept to be the foundation upon which we build our lives and beliefs.
A woman who cheats on a physically and verbally abusive husband: good or bad?
A terrorist who blows up a building, killing fifteen hundred innocent people: good or bad?
An 18-year-old boy who sometimes skips class, but makes straight A’s: good or bad?
A prostitute who was sexually abused as a child: good or bad?
A person who pays for one movie at the theatre, watches three, but gives money to a homeless man on the corner: good or bad?
Various aspects are taken into consideration when deciding whether we believe someone to be good or bad. But is it really our place to make judgments? It’s both impossible and exhausting. Some would argue that doing something wrong doesn’t necessarily make someone bad. Yet, there are those who’d argue the opposite. There are also individuals who contest that morality is possible without God. I can attest to there being atheists who have good morale. Whether we accept it or not, we are all creations of God, so naturally, we carry some of his spiritual DNA. It’s like having an estranged parent who you hate and disown. That person is still your parent and no matter how much you detest them, there are ways about you that come from them because you are of them. In the end, no one knows our hearts like God. He knows that we are flawed to our core and unable to escape our own sinful nature.
Human beings were dually created: a spirit and a soul. The spirit is the part of us from God and the soul is the carnal (or human) arch nemesis. They work against one another, seeking completely different lives. The spirit is righteous and is naturally inclined to function as such, while the soul is intent on giving into all pleasure, indulgence, and sin. We’ve two options: restlessly wrestle between spirit and soul our entire lives or release them both to God and ask him to make us righteous in his name, through his grace and through the practice of his word.
So no, good is not enough because it’s humanly impossible. But it doesn’t have to be: God’s salvation is free, we only have to accept it. He is the beginning of any and all good we could ever hope to be.