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Oct
25

Do Good

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Gal 6 10

 

…do good unto all men – Galatians 6:10

It is one of the surest signs of our confused times that to call someone a “do-gooder” is actually an insult. This demeaning term is intended to implicate the one being labeled with the heinous crime of being a self-righteous person, or a naive individual, or – worst of all – simply a bore. And yet, by this definition, no one was more self-righteous, naive, or boring than Jesus: for surely no one ever did more good than He.

Isn’t it more than a little bit absurd to denigrate someone for doing what is right, what is noble, what is charitable, or what is selfless? What kind of heroes are we setting forth as the ideal, when we disparage those that strive for excellence?

 

Protected from Danger…and Christianity

What kind of man was Todd Beamer, who led the charge on the terrorists who had hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001? By doing so, he doubtless saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives although it cost him his own. Wouldn’t he be accurately classified as a do-gooder? But was his decision one that led to boredom? Not even close.

What about the apostle Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament, healed many people of their sicknesses, started numerous churches, and finally died a martyr’s death? He sums up some of his experiences as a do-gooder in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27:

Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

So far from being boring, Paul’s life sounds more adventurous than even the most on-the-edge thrill-seeker today. So you jumped from a bridge with a big, thick elastic cord attached to you? Try three shipwrecks and 24 hours alone in the ocean. Or you jumped out of a plane with a parachute on your back? That’s nothing compared with 39 lashes from a whip, or being stoned and left for dead!

Since when did Christianity become less exciting than some sport with a plethora of protective equipment?

Since we stopped doing good. Since we holed ourselves up in the four walls of our church buildings, sat quietly (although impatiently) through a sermon, and then left thinking that we had done our duty as Christians. Since we replaced ministering to the poor with church baseball leagues as our preferred means of outreach. Since we substituted coffee-house, academic discussions of theology for pure religion, which demands visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction (James1:27).

In this age of seat belts and safety helmets we have grown so accustomed to protecting our family from danger that we have many times protected them from the practice of true, unadulterated Christianity as well.

 

The Impact of Personal Ministry

Do you sometimes wonder how it was that a motley, poverty-ridden, largely uneducated band of Christians could have made such a tremendous impact in the first few centuries of the church? It was largely because of their determination to “do good” in the name of Christ. The 2ndcentury Christian convert and apologist Tertullian recorded some of the attributes of Christianity that made an impression upon him. He contrasted the early Christians and the heathen:

These delighted in the bloody gladiatorial spectacles of the amphitheater, whereas a Christian was excommunicated if he went to it at all. No Christian was found in prison for crime, but only for the faith. The heathen excluded slaves from some of their religious services, whereas Christians had some of their presbyters of the class of slaves. Slavery silently and gradually disappeared by the power of the Christian law of love, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” When the pagans deserted their nearest relatives in a plague, Christians ministered to the sick and dying. When the Gentiles left their dead unburied after a battle and cast their wounded into the streets, the disciples hastened to relieve the suffering.

Wow! Can you imagine the impact it would have on the world, if this could still be said of us today? No Christian was found in prison for crime, but only for the faith. What if every traffic cop in America could honestly say that he or she had never had any occasion to pull over a Christian… even for breaking the speed limit?

What if the only Christians that were found in jail were those that became Christians after being sentenced to jail?

When the pagans deserted their nearest relatives in a plague, Christians ministered to the sick and dying.Would that this selfless spirit were still alive and well among us today! Being a disciple of the Jesus of the Bible may very well mean sitting with sinners, touching lepers, or ministering to the undeserving. Being a disciple of the Jesus of the Bible is also the most exciting endeavor we could ever embark upon.

I learned this lesson first-hand from a man named Steven Bloyd, when I lived in Maryland for a short time, years ago. He was my pastor, but he taught me more than just lessons from behind a pulpit. He showed me that Christianity was not just about academics, but also about action. He would do things like drive me to New York City, take me to Central Park, put a hymn book in my hand, and tell me to start singing: “if anyone pauses to listen, talk to them about the Lord.” That particular day I didn’t convince anyone to come to church with me (although I made two dollars from someone who mistook us for street performers!), but I did learn an invaluable lesson about true religion.

 

Shining the Light of Christ

A couple of years ago I talked with a fellow Christian who had tried everything from traveling to car racing in order to get rid of the boredom in his life. Finally, after a near-death crash on the race track, he said that he came to realize that the Lord was drawing him to a fuller life of following Christ with all his heart and soul and strength and mind. When I saw him later he told me, with a thrill in his voice, that he had thought that being a dedicated Christian would be boring but that, instead, it was the most exhilarating thing that he had ever known!

My friend Marlon Foster decided years ago, after watching one of his fellow drug-abusers being shot to death, that he wanted to live a different kind of life. So he started an organization in inner-city Memphis to reach out to young people and give them a safe place to stay after school. The plain little concrete building in which he houses this ministry, which features everything from broccoli-eating contests to Bible studies, is known as the most exciting place in the neighborhood to hang out.

When will Christianity awaken again to its full potential and influence the world around us for the glory of Christ? When we begin to act like Christ again! When we adopt His mission statement: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).

Hebrews tells us that God is well pleased with those who do good(13:16).

Jesus commands us to do good,even to those that hate us (Matthew 5:44). When we re-learn the lessons of turning the other cheek when we’ve been wronged, responding with a soft answer when we disagree, and showing love to everyone around us – regardless of their class or clout – then our light will begin to shine once again. And we will also find that there are many Christians out there with whom we have robbed ourselves of fellowship.

 

Joyful Hardships for Christ and Each Other

Recently, when some members of our church were delivering gift boxes to a local homeless shelter, one of the facility’s alumni-turned-administrators told us that he had been listening to the Baptist Bible Hour for years. He was so excited to get to visit with us, and we enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship with him. This pleasant encounter made me realize how frequently our comfort zones can keep us from enjoying the full range of experiences and privileges that God has in store for us. This man had not been comfortable leaving the neighborhood with which he was familiar and we had not always taken the opportunity to reach out of ours, either. But this is not the pattern that we see in the New Testament church.

The Hebrew saints were commended because, in order to minister to a fellow Christian in prison, they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods. (10:34) Apparently the situation was this: in those days, one didn’t get cable television and three square meals a day in prison; in fact, if you were going to eat, then someone from outside the prison had to bring food to you. Now the risk was this: whoever ministered to you, as a convicted Christian, would themselves be marked for persecution. All this notwithstanding, the Hebrew saints had chosen to have compassion on those who were in bonds… and, as a result, their houses were ransacked, their belongings destroyed or taken. Yet, they had joyfully undergone these hardships for the cause of Christ and to help each other.

Too often, too easily we replace this mindset with Cain’s motto: Am I my brother’s keeper?When we return to that kind of commitment, placing “doing good” above “being comfortable” in our priorities and decision-making, we can be sure that the world will take notice. As Jesus said, if we only do good to those who do good to us (“you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”), it is entirely unremarkable: for sinners do the same (Luke 6:33). John further reminds us that to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin(James 4:17). In other words, if we are not “doing good” then there is no middle ground of “doing okay.”

According to John’s inspired declaration, we are either doing good to others, or we are sinning.

How can we have the strength to be do-gooders, even when it means stepping outside of our comfort bubble, making ourselves vulnerable, and maybe even putting ourselves in danger of physical harm, sickness, or persecution? David shares with us the answer, in Psalm 37: Trust in the Lord, and do good” (v. 3).

Will it require faith? Absolutely. Will it mean trusting in God for our strength? Without a doubt. But it also will be the adventure of a life time, to follow our Lord Jesus through the unpleasant places and situations of the world. Jesus went courageously where everyone else dared not go, to touch lives that everyone else dared not touch. So, go ahead: be a do-gooder. Jesus was.

by Justin Huffman of Baptist Bible Hour( BBC )