April 12, 2009

Follow what is good


Helen (not her real name) can’t say anything nice
about anyone, and if she does happen to let a compliment slip, her tone remains angry or annoyed. She seems to be upset with the entire human race — except one. Helen has an elderly friend who receives soft compliments. This older woman is Helen’s opposite who “always has nice things to say about people” and if she talks about a person who is doing terrible things, she will say something like, “he is in a bit of trouble.”

When Helen speaks of her elderly friend, her tone and countenance change. Obviously the older woman has made a huge impression.

This morning’s devotional reading asks the rhetorical question, “Who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?” (1 Peter 3:13)

The “good” people, by God’s standards, are gracious, unselfish, kind and thoughtful, much like Helen’s elderly friend. While the godly person can suffer persecution, the norm is as described in this verse; good people are usually treated well.

My sister’s in-laws tell an amazing story of picking up a hitchhiker somewhere in the USA when they were on holidays. That young man was at first sullen and uncommunicative, but as they chatted and talked about the things a farming family enjoys, he warmed up. They bought him a meal and eventually dropped him somewhere along the way.

When they arrived home, a letter came from their hitchhiking friend. He told them that he wanted to apologize. He had planned to kill them and take their car, but because they were so good to him and such nice people, he couldn’t do it. He said if they didn’t believe him, to check the space between the seat and seat back in their car. They did. They found his gun.

For this family, goodness was not an act. They were well-meaning people doing what they would normally do and their goodness softened a very hard heart.

I’d like to be more like that. Sometimes, it seems that doing good is a choice, rather than a natural thing. I am in situations where I feel like complaining, or cutting someone with words, or walking away and letting them deal with their problems all by themselves. At those times, I could follow my sinful bent, or I could, as Peter says, choose to follow what is good.

I could do it for the wrong reasons, though. Following after goodness could make a big difference in the way people treat me, or even talk about me, but I know that as a follower of Jesus Christ, that is never the godly motive. Like the family who unknowingly picked up a potential killer, God wants me to just be a good person and do good things, regardless of anything I might get out of it, even oblivious to any evil intentions. Like Jesus, true goodness is caring about others and trusting my heavenly Father to take care of me.

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