"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Monday, January 19, 2009

On Being Good

He died that we might be forgiv'n,
He died to make us good. -Cecil Alexander.

Mrs. Alexander, an Irish woman living in the latter half of the 19th century, wrote these beautiful words in her hymn "There is a Green Hill Far Away".

I've often thought she hit on a thought that is missed by many Christians today. For those more familiar with theological terminology, you understand imputed righteousness to refer to Christ's righteousness being given to the believer so that essentially, when God the Father looks at the Christian he sees his perfect Son. Thus, even though we are not perfect we are in Christ and our standing before God could be summed up as "not guilty".

Unfortunately that is where many Christians, particularly Protestants, stop. In the beginning, when God created the world, he called everything intrinsically good. He called humans very good. The corruption of sin in the wake of the Fall ended this. Things were no longer intrinsically good, not humans, not the natural world. The Garden of Eden was no longer perfect. It was no longer Good.

However, the book of the Revelation ends in a Garden of sorts. In the 22nd chapter we see the restoration of all things. After describing the tree of life as symbolizing the healing of the nations, St. John writes "And there shall be no more curse." That is to say, as we approach the eschaton things are progressing to perfection. They are becoming more and more Good. What changed?

St. Paul writes in reference to the Crucifixion and Resurrection "we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." (Rom. 8:22) The "until now" is the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Because of what he did, not only does he clothe us in his righteousness, but he provides the grace for us and the world to truly become Good. The goodness of creation was a reality and will be again. For mankind, goodness was a reality and CAN be again.

It is our task in this life to believe in Jesus which is the beginning of conversion. This places us without question within the boundaries of God's mercy. But we are then called to be perfect, to be holy, to be good. The Lord in his mercy gives us graces through the Church to be obedient to his will and commandment, that we might progress in sanctification through co-operation with his redeeming grace.

We cannot save ourselves, but if we claim Jesus as Lord, we must treat him as Lord. Which means we become obedient servants who are truly becoming Good and are not just declared Good by God.

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