Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Effect of Goodness

Let’s say there was a mean man and a virtuous man. (Which is not entirely realistic because good people have bad in them and bad people have good in them.)

The mean man is more aware of his crooked ethics and morals when he is around is virtuous friend than when he is not. The mean man understands his friend is good and when he speaks to him he hears what he says through his friend’s ears.

When the mean man is around his virtuous friend the derogatory comments that comprise 80% of his conversations with his other friends seem obsolete, foolish and embarrassing.

The mean man might be inclined to discontinue his relationship with the virtuous man and continue on his dark and merry way. But it would be in his best interest not to. If the mean man walks it is indicative of what he wants most.

To have an impact on the mean man the virtuous man did not preach sweaty sermons. He did not hold him hostage and make him say a sinner’s prayer. He did nothing but simply be himself. He was as plain as good is.

He did not hover over the mean man and try to make him change, because the type of change that would produce might be disingenuous. The good man did not shame him either. But, he would not spare the bad man the honest truth about himself even if it hurt him, because love has the best interest of the beloved in mind.

This is how it is with God and us. When we are around God, who has befriended us, we have a sense of how He thinks about what we think, say and do. We learn many of our ways are not enlightened or wise. We also learn we are more loved and accepted than we could ever imagine.

Jesus' simple and merciful presence transforms us like the good man’s presence can transform the bad man, if he will let it. God’s mercy takes the form of discipline too. God loves us enough to tear down walls, but he does not destroy them and vacate the site. He rebuilds.

Hopefully the good man’s kindness leads to a changed life for the bad man. Hopefully God’s kindness leads us to change our lives. God’s goodness, and our goodness, is not without effect. It is contagious.

*Painting is "The Bridge, Blackwell's Island" by George Bellows (1882-1925)