What makes someone ‘good?’

What standards do you use when describing someone as ‘good?’

1. Consider your children, grandchildren or children in general. Did you grow up in a culture where good children were seen and not heard? Is it possible for good kids to do as we say not as we do? Does a good boy or a good girl abandon their calling to care for a parent or someone else in need? Does a good son or a good daughter cause problems, if so what kind? What is a good son or a good daughter?

2. Consider your relationships. What makes a relationship good? Is it limited to good times, good communication or good emotional support for you? Does a good relationship call out the best in you, challenge you to consider different perspectives and drive you into new directions? What makes a relationship good?

3. Consider your influences? What constitutes a good influence in your life? Can an enemy become a good influence? Theology, philosophy, economics, math, science can be influences. Are they good? Does an influence have to compel you to respond to be good? What makes a good influence?

Jesus redefined much of what I thought was good. I find him turning over more than tables in the Temple Court in my life. The gospels of Mark and Luke reveal Jesus asking a next generation leader a similar question: why do you call me good?* I imagine the next generation leader being savvy or arrogant. I imagine him trying to impress Jesus with his actions. I imagine him to be a lot like me.

What makes someone or something ‘good?'

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.” As a child, I was influenced by artwork that hung on walls of our Sunday school rooms. There was a painting of Jesus carrying a lamb as other sheep followed him that had a powerful influence in me. The title of the painting was engraved on the brass plaque: I am the Good Shepherd. I really liked the nice Jesus. The Jesus that was always there for me and could carry me when I needed it. I like the good Jesus who comforted me, the good Jesus who filled my emptiness, my loneliness and my every need. I really like the Jesus that allows me to be just as I am…me. Never in a million years did I imagine that my definition of a good Jesus was as juvenile, limited and ultimately stagnated my own spiritual growth. 

After some great time with our teaching team, I realized how I totally misjudged the John 10: 1-18 passage.  Jesus spoke to the Pharisees at the Temple Court. He was not sitting on the mountain side speaking to his potential followers nor was he trying to describe the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus was making a point. One that stings.

Pharisees were self-made men. They were not Sadducees born into the lines of priests who automatically inherited their position serving at the Temple. Pharisees were kings of personal sacrifice. They forfeited fortune, family and friends for a potential position in the Temple. They fought hard and worked their way up the ranks to get to the Temple Court. It is a mystery to some as to how some Pharisees actually made it into the Temple Courts. Sadducees were born into the ruling class.Their Sadduccean blood kept them in the highest place of honor whether they ascribed to the Lord and his commands or not. Pharisees measured each other on how they kept the law’s commands. They had their own definition of good.

I think Jesus made a serious indictment against the Pharisees and their ’sheep pen’…the Temple. He challenged the self-made men about leadership, salvation and motivation. He then masterly compared a good shepherd to a hireling. Jesus challenged them to consider if their faithful service to the Temple was faithful service to God. Or if they coveted the position at the Temple more than anything else in life. Dangerous territory for sure when challenging leaders with the truth of behaviors they believed to be….good.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. John 10:14-16 NIV

Pastor Jen