Who is a good person?


The painting above by New York artist Laura James, is a reminder of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Yes, it is a story of miracles. Whether or not you believe in miracles, know that behind a miracle is goodness. Not only that, the word good is derived from the word God. James in his letter simply puts it like this: “Every good gift is from above.” (James 1:17)

Of course, there are those who will scoff at this line of thinking and with a kneejerk reaction reject it by saying, “I don’t need God in order to be good.” In our day and age, we are especially surrounded by such a sentiment that good deeds and being good is simply part of our human nature.

Yet, I have a friend who once said to me “there is no such thing as an unselfish act.” That troubled me. It implied that everything we do has those proverbial strings attached. It was like she was saying there was no such thing as a truly good deed, which meant there was no such thing as a truly good person. This sent me into a tailspin. As I worked her comment over however, I reflected on Jesus and I couldn’t help but bump into the cross. We call it Good Friday because it is God’s Friday. The cross is an unselfish act. It is self-giving, sacrificial and above all, sacred.

Early Christians called unselfish, self-giving, sacrificial love, agape love. With Jesus leading the way, we start our search for goodness with agape love. Scripture says, “God is love.” (I John 4:8) The bible goes on to say, as a result, we love, because God first loved us. Herein, lies the blessing. A blessed person is a good person. A good person is blessed by God.

Remember the Sermon on the Mount and the beatitudes? With one word, Jesus changes our understanding of a “good” person. It is not about having it all together. By identifying those who rely solely upon God—because God is all they have—Jesus calls them “blessed.” This blessing turns our way of thinking about “good” upside down and wrong side up. Listen again, as Jesus says: “Blessed” are the poor, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, the persecuted, and the least and last of these.

So, who is a good person? A good person, as Jesus teaches is anyone, that is, everyone who needs and relies and depends upon God’s love. Everyone. Look again at the painting by Laura James and the feeding of the five thousand. There are people who are hungry. There are those who are tired. And, there are those who are worried and angry and stressed. They all rely on Jesus. No ifs, ands, or buts. No fingers crossed.

The miracle occurs. And we become the blessing. We are good to go. Our spiritual nature now informs our human nature. Goodness abounds. There are no strings are attached and “all things work together for good for those who love God.” (Romans 8:28)

All things. Fish, bread, a little boy, and you and me.

Image credit: Jesus Feeds the 5000, c. 1999 by Laura James. Permission granted by the artist.

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Robin Jennings

Robin T. Jennings is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, and an accomplished author, speaker and teacher who inspires his audiences with Biblical guidance and spiritual insights into everyday life. Whether he has the opportunity to speak to churches, businesses or organizations, Robin’s lifetime of work in spiritual transformation and renewal connects individuals with timely topics such as the importance of community, hope, identity and the search for meaning which are inevitably woven into his message.

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