By Julie Luse
I have to admit, as a kid I had a corrupt idea of what goodness meant. This could have something to do with my indoctrination into the myth of Santa Claus. As I understood it, if I tried harder I would gain my soul’s delight, and this snitch Jesus guy was watching me, ready to give a report to the bearded guy. I was proud to say I was on the “nice list,” and literally worshiped that fat guy in the red coat who gave out the rewards. I’m not sure why this concept sank in so deeply for me, but I cringe to think that, in a way, Christianity in America has some similar nuances when it comes to “goodness.” Many believe the better you are, the better your life will be.
What I didn’t know then is that my struggle with this goodness stuff would continue to haunt me even after Santa was exposed and the truth of Jesus sank into my heart. This goodness plague would continue to effect me like a low-grade fever long into my adult life–causing me to look around, even at other Christians, and compare.
It’s almost what kept me from trusting God in the first place. As a young girl I believed if I obeyed the law and tried to be as good as possible, things would go right in my life. But things didn’t go very right. There was still heartache and injustices so close to home that it stirred a suspicion that this “good God” didn’t really function on a “goodness” factor. If he did, my life would look much different.
Eventually I would trust God even though He didn’t make perfect sense, and this goodness plague wouldn’t show up until years later.
Paul talks specifically and thoroughly about this thing I call “the goodness plague” through the whole book of Galatians. It’s actually the purpose for his writing and warnings to the Christians in Galatia. They struggled, just as I do, to find a way to prove they were good Christians. They desired a way to measure their goodness. This is where legalism began to flourish.
I imagine it started so mildly and innocently. It probably seemed harmless too. But the ripple effect was dangerous. Maybe it went something like this: some Christians seemed better than other Christians, which then led to – some Christians seeming more blessed (or more important) than others Christians, which then led to – some Christians seeming more loved by God than others, which then led to – soul depravity. Because, after all of that, you either have completely self-reliant Christians achieving their own “greatness” through legalism or you have the Christians who have given up on God completely and given into the flesh. Neither group is living in freedom.
And when I say flesh I mean that thing within me that thinks I can do it on my own, so it doesn’t follow any authority or think it needs any help. It feeds off the impression that I did it my way and loves the recognition it gets when others give praise for it.
So this “goodness plague” (as I so affectionately refer to it) becomes a flesh thing instead of a spirit thing. Paul was meticulous in explaining that goodness is not something we can do on our own. That’s good news (phew) because I really struggle to show “goodness” when I feel like a not-good-enough Christian or when I doubt God’s unique love for me. I start looking around at others and feel defeated, and then beat myself up over feeling that way instead of loving everybody. I think this is human. I think this is what Paul was talking about. This is a sign I’m trying to do it by my own self instead of just abiding in the author of goodness.
So maybe it’s not about me trying to be good.
Maybe it’s about me understanding where goodness comes from.
When God created me He thought it was good because he made me in his image. Maybe my importance doesn’t come from my performance (my goodness). It comes from walking beside Him, in His goodness. Trusting Him, following Him.
And then, when others see me, my life naturally points to Him because He flows through me.
Because I am His.
Because He is good.
And because the fruit we bear, is His, not ours.
Father in Heaven, let me be like she who believes and trusts your unique love for her. Help me, Father, not to look around and measure my worth, but to walk so closely with you that your goodness rubs off on me and onto others. Help me to abide in you alone and forsake all other reliance!