In asking this question, the answer takes us beyond the varied psychological, sociological, or political dimensions of our life. Sure, there are all kinds of ways we respond in everyday decisions that may be considered good or bad. As an example, April 15 is fast approaching. We may look for ways to fudge on our tax return. Does that mean I am good or bad? By the way, we often justify such decisions by comparing ourselves to others so when it comes to a slight gaffe on our tax return, well “everybody” does that…we tell ourselves. It’s OK to slip something by Uncle Sam and the IRS as long as you don’t get caught. Am I good or bad?
Please take this question seriously. This is more than a question of money or citizenship or even the law. It leads us into the world of ethics and moral knowledge. Daily decisions add up. They are important. We can claim ignorance, or literally ignore, the difference between good and bad but such denial comes only at our great peril. Be careful.
Moral knowledge begins by first recognizing God as the source of goodness. God is good. As a result, God answers our question with the Word of God. The “Word” in Greek is logos which means the “reason” for being, or the principle for life, or even the plan for existence. This understanding of logos is further imbedded within Christian theology and writings as a way to explain, to reason, and to literally be logical when experiencing and receiving the logos, the Divine Word, in Jesus Christ.
For example, in the Gospel of John, his prologue opens as follows: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) John then clarifies and specifies this verse by focusing our attention on this side of heaven by writing, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) For the Christian, the Word is revealed and finds God communicating in the person of Jesus Christ.
So, what does it mean to be a good person? Well, the word “good” in the early English language was derived from God. Sure, we can say “good morning” but be assured it is God’s morning. Or, we might say “good night” but again it is God’s night. When we say “goodbye” it originally meant God bless. In other words, God is the foundation for living and for being good. So, how can I be a good person? Don’t ask me. Ask God.
By asking God, we find the Word revealed in Jesus. Jesus reflects God’s goodness. You see, a good person is God’s person. Righteousness is a way of not only describing God’s character but it is a calling for those want to be good. Hear again the remarkable teaching of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) This verse is a compelling wake-up call, a loud trumpet sounding, a clap of thunder, a still small voice, that finally catches our attention and opens us to allowing God into our lives that really makes a difference … in fact, all the difference in the world.
This difference as Jesus tells us, is first about a wise man who built his house on a rock. When rain fell, and the floods came and the winds blew, his house did not fall because the foundation was built on rock. The foolish man built his house on sand. So, when the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew his house fell and great was the fall. (Matthew 7: 24 ff)
How can I be a good person? It begins with God whose love forms and transforms, creates and recreates, our character and our very being into the love of God, who “first loved us” (I John 4:19). From there, as James says, we become “doers of the word” meaning it is time—especially in our day—to now not simply be good, but to do good.