“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).Doing Good Versus Being Good
With the new year almost upon us, I’d like to share a few thoughts this week that have been bumping around in my head. In the above verse, Jesus, having been anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power, went about “doing good.” I am fully aware that what I am about to share may not have been everyone’s experience, but it certainly has been mine. I have too often experienced religion’s emphasis being more about “being” good than about “doing” good. “Being” good is usually more restrictive in nature. It’s about refraining from things that are bad. Don’t do this, and don’t do that. (Naturally, the list of what those things you are not to do can vary depending upon one’s religious persuasion and interpretation.) Instead of the focus being on the good that we should be going about “doing,” it too often has a singular focus on the bad that we are NOT supposed to be doing.
Read the following verse with what I’ve just shared in mind:
If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:26, 27).
Did you catch it? Pure religion in the eye’s of God is more about what one does, rather than what one refrains from.
Please don’t misunderstand. Certainly there were things Jesus Himself abstained from and things we are called to abstain from as well. But too often this is ALL someone’s religion is about. It is this self-centered concern about “being good” while remaining passive about the plights of others around us in need that has left such a bad taste in so many peoples mouths about Christianity. (You can see this principle illustrated by Jesus in the parable of the good Samaritan. The Levite and the Priest possessed a religion whose focus was on refraining from evil, rather than focused on what it really means to do good, in contrast to the religion practiced by the Samaritan.) You see, too many times, religion possesses a very genuine lack of love, active love that goes about “doing” good to those it comes in contact with. The Kingdom Jesus called us to be a part of is a kingdom based on radical, self-sacrificial, proactive love. It’s a love that reaches outward and is other-centered in focus.
Jesus did not come to start a new religion, or any religion at all, for that matter. Jesus came to establish a kingdom, His kingdom, in the hearts and lives of all who would receive it. A kingdom whose very principles run counter to all we know in this world, both religious and secular.
So this new year, in the light of God’s radical self-sacrificial love for us that is revealed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, may we, too, spend this next year not religiously “being” good, but instead, lovingly going to and fro like Jesus: “doing” good. May we be intense in our effort to do good to all those we come in contact with. Love like the rain! Love like the sun! And go enlarge the Kingdom (Matthew 5:44,45).
I wish you God’s best this week, and throughout this upcoming new year.
Happy New Year to each of you!