“And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’” ~ Mark 10.18 [ESV]
Inclinations of self-preservation are embedded deep in who we are as people. We are forever working to put our best spin on life, especially when that spin makes us look or feel better. But how we look and how we feel are not the most important things in life. Making ourselves (or those who matter to us) look good doesn’t make us good. The same can be said of our feelings: just because we feel good about something doesn’t mean it actually is. As a matter of fact, our “feelers” are usually so carnal that we can almost guarantee they will deceive us and blind us to the truth. What is our basis for calling anyone or any situation “good”?
Of course, “calling a spade a spade” is not going to win you any popularity contests. People gravitate to encouraging sentiments, and Christians are notoriously extreme in this regard. Oh, the Christians! We’re either patting everyone on the back or sending everyone to hell – one in the name of being “positive” and the other in the name of promoting “holiness.”
Positivity should never come at the cost of denying reality. I am soundly convinced that we need to be people of grace and truth, not grace or truth! One of the qualities that makes God great is his capacity to love us completely in spite of the fact that he knows us completely. God doesn’t have to put a spin on anything. He doesn’t have to deny anything. He loves us too much to do that. Godly hope is great because it thrives in the context of total honesty. If I know that all things will work together for my good, I don’t have to deny or manipulate any of those (all things) facts. I can be candid about my weakness, my sin, my rebellion, my limitations because I know that none of those things is greater than God or his purpose! God specializes in all things meant for evil…
In light of this, it’s not false humility or anemic self-esteem to say there’s nothing good in me. I’m not being “negative” if I actually own up to my disasters. I can be real about who I am and what I’ve done. I am in NO WAY suggesting that we should be ambivalent! It’s not that we shouldn’t care about our sinfulness, but we shouldn’t be upset with the thought of other people seeing it either. We shouldn’t insist that people call evil (as in selfishness or pride) “good” just so we can keep the positive vibes going. We don’t have to do this: we have the Gospel which not only confronts our sinful reality but offers a positive resolution! Ultimately, while there’s no reason to call me good, there’s a tremendous reason to stand up and call HIM good: he makes all things new!