Goodness and Micah 6.8 A Spirit-Synced Way of Life

 

I love the quote from the picture above: “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”  This is one of those aphorisms that just sounds right when you read it, hear it, or say it.

But it begs some questions.  First, what is goodness?  Second, how can we be more good?  And lastly is demonstrating goodness in our lives truly a foolproof investment?

 

What Is Goodness?

Biblically speaking, goodness is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5.  It’s often paired with kindness, probably because many people find that the two of them are difficult to differentiate.  The argument goes something like this: a kind person is good and a good person is kind.  True all the way around.  But that still doesn’t mean that the two concepts are the same.

As I’ve written about before, kindness is the ability to care for all people, whoever they may be.  But what is goodness?  Here’s my working definition: Goodness is demonstrated in our lives when we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  Obviously within that definition kindness can and should be found.  But kindness is more about generally demonstrating compassion, while goodness is more about generally demonstrating righteousness and justice.

I come to this conclusion because of the way the Bible presents goodness.  When Jesus is called “good teacher” and is asked about what “good deed” must be done in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus gives some insight to this notion of goodness (Luke 18.18 and Matthew 19.16).  To both Jesus responds by saying that there is only one who is good — God himself.  Therefore, it is God and God alone who can define goodness.

But this is a major rub for us.  We want to define what is good.  We want to be able to say, “I’ve accomplished it…I’m good now!”  But our definitions of goodness will be faulty for any number of reasons, chiefly because we are selfish.  At the end of the day, we’ll define as good that which benefits us as individuals, family units, or communities.

But how does God define goodness?  You may have already gotten a hint of where I’m about to go. Perhaps the best place in all of the Bible to learn how God defines goodness is Micah 6.8:

 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

So based on this passage it seems clear that goodness looks like acting justly (fighting for what’s right and against oppression), loving mercy (putting the interests of others before our own), and walking humbly with God (having a devoted and intimate relationship with God).

Thus goodness seems to have to do with right relationships with others, whether other humans or God.

This may not sound earth-shattering but it is. When many of us think about goodness with think about personal piety.  We think about things that we do and things that we don’t do…probably more the things we don’t do!

 

“…Or with Girls Who Do!”

There was a funny saying in Christians circles where I grew up.  I went like this: “I don’t drink, smoke, or chew and I don’t go with girls who do!”

And while this little rhyme is funny, it’s also quite sad.  Here’s why: it highlights a sobering reality…followers of Jesus tend to be more identified with the things we don’t do and the things we oppose than with the things we actually do and the things we wholeheartedly support.

A quick perusal of the news or Google results will confirm this.  Christians tend to get the most attention by abstaining from sex, alcohol (or at least drunkenness), gambling, etc. and from being anti-LBBTQ, -abortion, -premarital sex, etc.

Here’s an honest question in response: Wouldn’t it be better to be know by the things that we do and the things we support?  Wouldn’t we rather the world know that we care for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the immigrant?  Wouldn’t we rather the world know that we support protecting the rights of the fragile and forgotten?

Wouldn’t we rather the world know about the goodness that we demonstrate through our actions rather than the personal piety we attempt to build up privately?

Obviously the answers to all of those rhetorical questions is “yes.”  It would be amazing if the world could begin to see us differently.

 

It’s Time for a PR Campaign

So we have a public relations problem and we need to work to solve it.  Why?  Not because it’s nice or politically correct.  No.

We need to launch a fully-fledged PR campaign because we want people to come to know Christ and his transformative power.

We need to launch a fully-fledged PR campaign because we long for our cities, towns, and villages to be made better thanks to the presence of those who claim Christ.

We need to launch a fully-fledged PR campaign because the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20) demands we do so.

But how?  One word: GOODNESS!

If we became the kind of people who were so deeply connected to the Spirit that his Micah-6.8 goodness oozed out of us everywhere we went, our reputation in the world would change for the better!

People would begin to see and experience the love of God through us, his ambassadors here on earth.

Friends, this is our duty.

Only one thing remains: Obedience.  Will we do it?!?

 

What do you think?  What does goodness mean and how can goodness change the world?  Let me know in the comments below!

Waiting for the Drop

The Drop in Dubstep

Dub-what?  If you’ve not heard of dubstep, don’t worry.  It might not be for you.  Or it might.  Who knows?

But if you want to know what it is, well here’s the best way I can describe it: It’s a genre of electronic dance music which generally starts out slow but after a short while a large bass sound hits and the song’s aggressiveness increases.  Dubstep’s is chiefly characterized by its 140 or 70 beats per minute pace, its use of lots of “wub” and “wah” sounds, its sampling of vocal tracks (rapping or singing), and its “the drop” (that big bass sound at the beginning).

And it’s the drop that I want to talk about here.  Why you ask?  For one reason: the way some people dance to dubstep.  (Note: I rarely dance and never to dubstep, at least not to date.  All of my dubstep dance knowledge is due to So You Think You Can Dance? and YouTube.)

So when people dance to dubstep they typically do what is called “waiting for the drop.”  What this means is that the dancer does some light and slow moves prior to the drop.  But when the drop hits, well, things generally get crazy!  There’s lots of flailing, locking and popping, and general silliness!

Sometimes dubstep dance instructions are even given like this: 1. Wait for the drop; 2. Go nuts!

But what if the drop never came or took a long time to come?

Waiting for the Drop in Life

There’s something that I have done in my life from time to time that maybe you can relate with.  I wait for the drop.  What do I mean by that?  Well, let me unpack it a bit.

A lot of us who follow Jesus are convinced that at some point in our lives we’ll get some sort of a uber-clear directive from God (AKA “the drop”), after which we’ll get busy following Jesus for real.  So what do we do in the mean time?  Well, we try to be good by not doing things that we’re told are wrong.  We go about life like everyone else, working, dating, getting married, retiring, etc. (all good things!).  Sometimes we’re in a holding pattern until the drop comes.

But what if it doesn’t come?  What if we never get that uber-clear directive from God, that be-a-pastor, go-to-southeast-asia, lead-a-revolution-for-the-sake-of-the-kingdom directive?  Will we just continue doing what seems right to us, what we think pleases God?  Will we just simply continue to do what everyone in the culture around us is doing?

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve been guilty of this many times.  I’ve wanted to hear that call to a BIG obedience and missed out on all the things God might have for me day-to-day.  While waiting for the drop, life passes me by.

Can you relate?

The Drop Can Wait

Let me share with you something I’ve learned during my 25+ years of following Jesus — the drop can wait.  Can you or I control when God might want to call us to some sort of a BIG obedience?  No!?  But what we can control, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is what we do when we aren’t experiencing the drop.

And what does that look like?  How should we dance before (or after!) the drop hits?  Let’s turn to Scripture for some help…

He has told you, mortals, what is good in His sight.
    What else does the Eternal ask of you
But to live justly and to love kindness
    and to walk with your True God in all humility?”

(Micah 6.8 in The Voice translation)

So while waiting for the drop (or the second, third, fourth, etc. drop), let’s do these three things that are good in God’s sight:

1. Live justly.

Translated literally, this phrases says something like this “diligently seek justice.”  But the way the The Voice puts it is great — “live justly.”  Justice is not just something that we pursue only when we feel some super-obvious call from God (“the drop”).  No!  It’s something we live, something we seek with all we are.

And the justice that we are to live out it not our personal version of justice, American justice, Democratic or Republican justice, ethnic justice, or any other sort of justice.  It’s God’s justice — defined by him and his Word and sought after in ways that he sees fit.

So what might God’s justice and the pursuit thereof look like?  There’s one best place to look — Jesus’ life!  Read through the Gospels.  See how Jesus sought God’s justice for people, especially people who had been written off, like sinners, tax collector, religious zealots, work-a-day people, etc.  Then imitate Jesus in your life.  Live Jesus’ human life in your human life.

2. Love kindness.

Things get more sticky with this second idea.  Why?  Because I can try to live justly in an unkind manner.  But we aren’t given that option in Micah 6.8.  We are told to also love kindness.  So while we’re waiting for the drop, not only should we live justly, but we should love kindness.

The word for “kindness” here is one you may recognize: hesed.  It is often translated as follows: “mercy,” “loving kindness,” “unfailing love,” and/or “loyalty.”  The ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, which is called the Septuagint, translates this word as eleos, which means “mercy” or “compassion.”  So the idea seems pretty clear — hesed is not a one-off kind of word.  It means to show mercy or compassion consistently.

And not just to show kindness to others…but to love it!  How many of us love showing kindness?  I don’t always!  But that’s our instruction.  We are to love having compassion on others.

And what does this look like?  Well, again, look at Jesus’ life and words.  He said “love your neighbor as yourself” and he did just that, giving away his time, his sleep, his comfort, and ultimately his life.

3. Walk with God in all humility.  

Sometimes the best way to understand something is to think of the opposite.  So, what would it look like to walk with God in all pride?  Perhaps you would walk with God only to get out of him what you think is best.  Maybe you would walk with God, pretending like you are an equal with him.  Perhaps you would walk with God in such a way to improve your reputation and not his.

So a good start with walking with God in all humility might be NOT doing those things!  Instead let’s follow God in order to serve him and his will in this world.  Let’s follow God while keeping in mind an honest appraisal of ourselves as sinners desperately in need of his grace and forgiveness.  And let’s follow God in such a way to make ourselves less and to increase his fame.

So while we are waiting for the drop we should walk with God humbly.  Walk.  That implies action, movement, and consistency.  Walking humbly with God is not a one-time decision.  It’s a lifestyle.

 

So let’s stop waiting for the drop.  Let’s start living for God now!  And when the drop comes, when he asks us to something specific and “big,” then we’ll be ready.

 

What do you think?  How should we live as we wait for the drop?  Let me know in the comments below.