For the most part, I go through life intending to good, not harm. I get up in the morning and expect to be a civil and decent human being. That’s what I have been taught is appropriate. I attempt to express kindness, give attention where needed and basically behave humanely. I never quite get through a day, however, when I do it all just right. At some point I am bound to blunder and fail in my efforts to be benevolent. All too well, I know exactly how human I really am.
With that knowledge, I find it quite amazing how others sanctify my actions by seeing the good intentions as blessings and missions of God. They turn my blundering, simple ways into things divine. How humbling!
Is it actually godly to just be loving and sincere? Can it be considered holy when we take the time to care?
Actually, it is godly to be loving and it is holy to be compassionate. Because the truth of the matter is that there is no one righteous without God in them. It is God in us that moves us to these merciful manners. That is why David prayed in Psalm 51:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow...
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
Paul echoed David’s realization when he declared in a letter to the Romans that he was caught in an ongoing struggle between flesh and spirit.
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am!”
Paul concludes his verbal tug-of-war in Romans 7:14-24 with a question: “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The answer is in verse 25.
“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Hope for sinners to be something rather than useless rests in our willingness to surrender our flesh to God’s spirit. Otherwise, every deed, every action, every thought is susceptible to selfishness and evil. So when someone flatters me again with the notion that my deeds dare to duplicate anything near divine, I shall thank my God for being near and alive within me. I know it is His intervention in my heart and my life that makes any task I do worth any value at all. The struggle to do what is right and to be righteous moves us to kindness. The sinner in us tries to trip us up on the journey there. Like David and Paul, I am thankful God has made a way for me through Jesus Christ our Lord so I can be a blessing to others on occasion. What an amazingly divine situation.