From: Dermoth Baptiste
President, Seventh-day Adventist Church
As we look through the rear-view mirror, I believe you will agree with me that this year has been one of the most nauseating, repulsive and catastrophic in contemporary times, having to deal with the trinity of disasters; dengue outbreak, COVID –19 up-tick and the explosive eruption of La Soufriere volcano. Our resilience has been tested to the core, just as our faith has been tried in so many ways. Thank God we have come through the worst of these disasters; also having been spared from any serious hurricane impact, to which we can raise our Ebenezer, joyfully ascribing, “hath it not been for the goodness of God, where would we have been?”
It is evident as the song writer says, His goodness keeps chasing us, even as we keep running away from Him. He keeps pursuing us, showering us with His benevolent love, grace and mercy, for He desires relationship and intimacy with each one of us no matter what our circumstances or conditions may be in life. He values us and places a high premium on us even after being bruised, beaten and battered by the ugliness of sin. It is for that reason why He condescended from the realms of Glory to invade human space, looking beyond our faults to meet our most urgent of needs, which is salvation and restoration in His image. The Good Shepherd came to earth so that we can have and enjoy a good life.
But how do we define ‘the good life’? French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau defined it as ‘a good bank account, a good cook, and a good digestion’. Some would say the good life is physical. They think it doesn’t get any better than a long soak in a hot bath, a back rub, a pull of crack to get high or drinking alcohol to drown out problems. Others would say the good life is material. They think if you have the mansion, the Mercedes, the money and the mate, you’re living the good life.
But goodness isn’t about feeling good, looking good or having goods. It’s about being good and doing good deeds. Just like we need a clock to tell time and a ruler to measure distance, so we need a universal standard for determining goodness. And we do have one. God! ‘Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways’ (Psalm 25:8 NIV).
Without a universally accepted standard for goodness, it becomes a grey area, a matter of opinion. Hitler thought annihilating the Jewish race was ‘a good thing’. Suicide bombers think killing innocent human beings ‘is a good thing’. And such thinking can’t be countered with a simple, ‘That’s not good.’ What’s to keep a Hitler or a suicide bomber from saying, ‘That’s just your opinion’?
The word ‘good’ stems from an old English word with the same connotation as God. It literally means ‘to be like God’. Goodbye is the shortened phrase ‘God be with you’. So, the universal standard for goodness can only be decided by one who is universally good, and that one can only be God. Think about it! That’s the truth about Christmas!
In the words of Robert Fitch: ‘Ours is an age where ethics has become obsolete. Morality is superseded by science, deleted by philosophy, and dismissed as emotive by psychology. It drowns in compassion, evaporates in aesthetics, and retreats before relativism. The usual moral distinctions between good and bad are simply bathed in a maudlin emotion in which we feel more sympathy for the murderer than the murdered, for the adulterer than for the betrayed, and in which we have actually begun to believe that the real guilty party – the one who somehow caused it all – is the victim and not the perpetrator of the crime.’ Those are sobering thoughts. Things that were once considered black or white are now categorized as grey. Goodness that used to meet a universal standard is now a matter of personal interpretation and preference.
In order to feel good, the Bible says one must practice doing good and being good, which makes one ‘delightful’ to God. In 3 John 1; 11 the Apostle John makes this very profound statement, Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. Here we have a counsel, followed by a caution:
1. The counsel: Follow that which is good; for he that doeth good (naturally and genuinely doeth good, as delighting therein) is of God, is born of God. The practice of goodness is the evidence of our filial happy relation to God.
2. The caution: Follow not that which is evil, for he that doeth evil (with bent of mind pursues it) hath not seen God, is not duly sensible of His holy nature and will. Evil-workers vainly pretend or boast an acquaintance with God.
Doing good is an indication that God is in control of our lives. Doing good is a sign that we have allowed the Holy Spirit to take out our stony heart and replace it with a heart of flesh. Doing good means that we are trusting in the Lord with all of our heart and never leaning unto our own understanding.
Being good, having goodness welling up in our hearts, doing good to our neighbor and wanting good for all humanity are evidences that we understand who Jesus is and the story behind Christmas. I pray that each of us will continue to allow the Holy Spirit to take full and complete control of every single area of our lives so that He can help us to be good and to do good, now and in the coming year.
On behalf of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I wish you a joyful holiday season and a bright and brilliant New Year, filled with goodness, gratitude and graciousness.