Dec 172018 0 Responses

God’s Will Isn’t for You to Be Good

The greatest temptation for me is the desire to be good. We don’t often think about temptation and good in the same context. Temptation is often about bad desires and bad choices. Good is normally the opposite of temptation. When tempted, we should make good choices.

Yet our desire for good can hinder us from God.

Most of the people I know are good people. They aren’t perfect. Mistakes are made. Bad choices are experienced. Yet even when we are bad, we are good. We understand our wrong and try to make things right. The people I know, love, give, and serve. They help others and don’t demand for themselves what could be rightfully theirs.

Birth Stories Told By Men

Joseph plays a minor role in the Christmas story. That’s no shot at Joseph. Men play a minor role in the birth process. My job when our kids were born was to keep my mouth shut and stay out of the way. When a husband and wife each tell their perspective of their child’s birth, they often tell two drastically different tales. The wife expends great detail to tell of the roller coaster that is birth. Men tend to talk about waiting, eating, and then a baby is born. This is illustrated in the New Testament as the Gospel of Luke tells the Christmas story from Mary’s perspective and the Gospel of Matthew tells the same story from the vantage point of Joseph. What takes Luke 132 verses to tell, Matthew does in eight.

Yet in those eight verses, Joseph’s dilemma is seen.

Prior to a miraculous visitation from an angel in a dream, Matthew writes that when Joseph found out Mary was pregnant he could have shamed her but instead chose to divorce her quietly. Both choices were legitimate options. The former would have justified Joseph in the eyes of his friends and family. It would have protected his reputation and allowed him to get out of his relationship with Mary in the easiest way possible.

The latter was a more risky option. To divorce Mary quietly was allowed by the law, but would cause many to doubt his sincerity. His reputation would’ve taken a hit. It was the right thing to do, but it would have come with a cost.

Then the angel appeared in the dream and Joseph had an even more difficult decision. Rather than choosing between shaming Mary and divorcing her quietly, now he had to choose between his way (a quiet divorce) and God’s way (marrying the pregnant girl). He chose God’s way, but notice what it cost.

Joseph and Goodness

For Joseph, his identity was likely built on his ability to be good. He was a religious man who wanted to do right. Not only would he like to be good, but he would also want to appear good as well. His decision to divorce Mary quietly shows a willingness to personally suffer in order to give the appearance of nobility and righteousness.

Joseph likely believed God would love him as long as he was good. He felt safe in his own goodness. Yet notice the demand of the angel. He asked Joseph to do something which others would consider not good. To marry the pregnant woman would be scandalous. Religious leaders would call him heretical. His family would claim he was taking responsibility for things that weren’t his fault. His community would ostracize him for making bad choices.

The angel asked Joseph not just to give up his goodness, but also to lose his appearance of goodness before others. When Joseph awoke from the dream, he had to choose between appearing good to others or obeying God.

Good vs. God

We often face a similar choice. One of the greatest temptations we face is to trust in our own goodness. Believing that God loves good people, we think that as long as we are good (or appear good) we are safe with God and others. Yet the way of Jesus is not always seen as good. Remember, the secular and religious leaders both hated Jesus. Neither believed him to be good. As his followers lived what Jesus taught, they too were not seen as good.

  • To love our enemies doesn’t just seem foolish, it feels wrong.
  • To forgive those who have hurt us doesn’t seem appropriate.
  • To extend mercy to others can be dangerous.

Yet Jesus calls us to do all these things. If we obey him, we won’t be seen as good by the leaders of our culture or even many of the leaders of our religious groups, including many Christian churches.

Are you willing to sacrifice your appearance as a good person in order to obey Jesus?

We are called to speak the truth. When Paul did this, he was accused by the religious leaders of “stirring the pot.” Good people shouldn’t do that. When the prophet Nathan did this, he risked his own life. Good people should never have their lives at risk.

We are called to love others. When Jesus did this, he was accused of socializing with outcasts, possibly condoning their sinful behavior. Good people shouldn’t socialize with bad people. Good people shouldn’t condone the behavior of bad people.

We are called to extend the grace we have received from God. Yet grace implies wrongdoing. To extend grace means we are going to have to draw a line saying some behaviors are wrong. Good people don’t judge others by saying their actions are wrong.

To obey Jesus, we must be willing to sacrifice our appearance of goodness before others.

A Demanding Expectation

When the Christmas story is read, we quickly hear about the angel’s visitation to Joseph and we assume he easily believed. He did obey, but we aren’t sure how easily he did so. I assume it was far more difficult than we often imagine. The angel’s request was not an easy one. It demanded from Joseph a sacrifice of everything he knew as right and just. It required him not just to do something that didn’t make sense to him, but to give up a reputation he had likely spent years building.

History has proven that Joseph made the right decision, but it couldn’t have been easy. It won’t be for us either. But God’s will for us isn’t to be good. He wants us to be obedient.

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