Friday, August 10, 2018

A Dog's eye: the measure of a good man part 3

It's easy to be good to your friends, and by being good to them, it's easy for them to reciprocate.

Strangers are a slightly more difficult proposition, because although a bare minimum of courtesy and politeness can be managed by most people, we are generally less tolerant with, and certainly less trusting of people we do not know. Our own insecurities cause us to be wary of strangers and disinclined to get too involved with them.

Some people will help strangers; others will not, as we see in the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan. The Bible says in Galatians that we should "not grow weary while doing good for in due season we will reap a reward if we do not lose heart. Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially those who are of the household of faith." This is what I believe God expects of us and although it won't make us good, it will make us better.

The third group of people by whom our treatment of them will demonstrate our "goodness" is our enemies. Most of us would deny having any enemies, but let us say that anytime somebody does you wrong, or does somebody you know wrong, they become your enemy. It is in how we deal with this group of people that the rubber meets the road. In group one, there will be Christians and non-Christians. In group two you might expect to find more Christians than non-Christians, but in reality there will be a mix. In group three, you will be struggling to find anybody at all who relates well to their enemies.

Let's remember Jesus' words: "If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even tax collectors and sinners do the same? And if your greet the brethren only, what more do you do than others?"

The 12th chapter of Romans is arguably the best snapshot of Godly
behaviour in the Bible. It should be mandatory reading for everyone. Paul writes, "Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good." (v. 21) "If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him drink." (v.18) "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." (v.18) Measure yourself against this criteria and you will quickly be forced to agree that you, and everyone else, falls short of the glory of God. There are no "good" men. Even Jesus, when addressed as Good Teacher, rejected this appellation by saying that only God is good.

If this sounds too hard, that's because it is. It's too hard for you, for me, for anyone. It's really not possible for men to live this way except they be filled with the Holy Spirit. Finally, remember this, even if you pass this test and can be good to not only your friends, but also to strangers and enemies, you still won't be anywhere near as good as God.

Friday, August 3, 2018

A Dog's Eye: the measure of a good man part 2

Bill and Fred have different opinions of George: one good, the other bad. Which is true? The Bible says that George is a bad man, but no worse than Bill or Fred. The truth is, compared to God, we are all bad. Romans 3:23 says that "All men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." There's no shame in that. God is perfectly good. We are not.

Men are judged by their deeds, so eye surgeon and humanitarian Fred Hollows, for example, was a good man whereas Port Arthur mass murderer, Martin Bryant is not. The average person would perhaps consider themselves not as "good" as Hollows, but much better than Bryant. Compared to each other, our goodness or badness is relative, but compared to God we are bad, because God alone is absolutely good. He is perfect. Jesus himself, during his incarnation, even rejected the appellation "good teacher", by saying that God alone is good. We are born in sin, and we die in sin unless we get saved.

If we reject the Bible's teaching on the subject of sin, how can we possibly determine who is good and who is not with any degree of objectivity and fairness? Many people, in this post modern age of relative truth and morality, say that we don't need to make such judgments. That is why you may hear a thousand different answers to the question: 'what is the measure of a good man?"

Let me clear here. When I speak of judging the goodness and badness of people, I am in fact saying that we should not do that because we are not qualified. On the basis that we are all bad, we are not equipped to judge people. We can however make honest assessments of ourselves which should allow us to be more forgiving of others and gracious to them. 

I suggest there is one answer. The Biblical measure of a man's goodness, remembering that when compared with God our own righteousness is like filthy rags, can be assessed by how he relates to three distinct groups of people; friends, strangers and enemies.

As for the first group, friends are friends because, among other things, they treat each other well, have common interests, help each other and show loyalty. It's easy to be "good" to your friends, and by being "good" to them, it is easy for them to reciprocate. It's easy to love your friends, but as Jesus said, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?" (Luke 6:32)

Strangers and enemies are different kettles of fish, and I will deal with them in more detail in part 3 of the measure of a good man.