Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lessons from a Prostitue (Part III): When Good is Bad

This is the third part of series on Rahab and what she teaches us about goodness and faith. You can read Part I (HERE) and Part II (HERE). Thus far in the "Lessons from a Prostitute" series, I've unpacked two main thoughts:
  1. Faith rather than goodness is the foundation of your relationship with God.
  2. You will never be good enough, but a little faith is good enough.
In this post I will explore how...

Faith focuses on God but goodness focuses on you.

 If your goal is "goodness," then you tend to focus on yourself:
  • Your reputation: what others think of you.
  • Your ability: your talent, discipline and effort.
  • Your stats: keeping track of how many "right things" you do.
  • Your standing: evaluating your "goodness" as compared to the "goodness" of others.
Goodness is often self-centered but faith is always God-centered: focused on his power, his sovereignty, his love, his ability. Goodness says, "I can do this!" Faith says "God has promised to do this." In the story of Rahab, she hides enemy spies (Israelite spies) on her roof in order to make a deal with them. She saves their life hoping they will return the favor when Israel sacks Jericho. She betrays her own people to save her family's life. She is not an Israelite. She does not worship Yahweh, but she has heard about his victories, how he fights on behalf of Israel. Although Rahab has an elementary understanding of Yahweh, she puts her faith in him. Faith is simply: believing God is exactly who he says he is. As she talks with her enemy house-guests her faith comes to light:

"...the LORD your God is God in heaven above and the earth below." -Rahab

She doesn't claim Yahweh as her God, but she does acknowledge his sovereignty. She believes he is who he claims to be and as a result has confidence Yahweh will hand her city into Israel's hands, so she bargains with the enemy.

Rahab had no Intel on the Israeli army: the number of infantry, their training regiment, the sophistication of their weapons, but she was not making her decision based on the army's training or ability nor Jericho's lack thereof. Rahab acted based on what she believed about Yahweh!

Faith focuses on God but goodness focuses on you. 

But that begs the question, "Does goodness have a place in the divine-human relationship?" The short answer: absolutely. The Apostle Paul lists goodness as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Goodness is part of the Christian life but it is a byproduct of faith! Goodness is the offspring from your intimate relationship with God. As he works in you, goodness becomes a part of the fruit of your new existence, but it was never the goal.

Two dangers exist when goodness is the goal of your Christian life:
  1. BURNOUT. Chasing goodness is an act of futility. It is chasing the horizon, a dog chasing his tale, the Cubs chasing the World Series. You will never catch it. You will never be good enough, and eventually you will collapse on the floor panting in exhaustion. If you are reading this and you find yourself exhausted by the Christian life, take a step back and ask yourself what you are after. Are you striving to prove that you are good or are you chasing a God who is wholly good? Chances are you are chasing something you cannot catch.
  2. GIVING UP.  If you don't burnout, you'll give up. You will realize that goodness is unattainable and so "What's the point?" You may be reading this and have already given up. You know you are not good. You may play the church game. You attend worship services to ease your family's mind. You bring your kids because, although you are a hopeless cause, they might be young enough to have a chance. You may call yourself a Christian but go home and live as if God doesn't exist, because "What's the point? You'll never be good."
So, if you are burned out or if you have given up, there is good news. You are chasing the wrong thing. Christianity is not what you think it is. Quit chasing goodness. Stop and recalibrate your compass. Just stop. Breathe. Sit in God's presence. Sit there a long time...

...faith focuses on God!

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