I still remember vividly the shock I felt the first time I read these words:
“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No-one is good– except God alone.” Mark 10:17-18, NIV.
How could Jesus say this, when Scriptures’ unanimous testimony elsewhere is that he never sinned against man or God in his earthbound, human life? I was stunned, and determined to understand what made him utter these words. Here is what I have learned:
The first layer of truth is that he carried the most humble attitude about himself, even knowing he was the Son of God, called to be the Savior of the world.
But the next layer of truth is that goodness — through and through, steadfast, unchanging goodness — is found in no human being. And this presents a great problem for us earth-dwellers, who were made by our creator to crave and rejoice in goodness.
The failure to find goodness in our face-to-face relationships with others provokes two different responses, one being that when people fail us, crushing our faith in them, we easily default to losing hope in God as well. When John the Apostle wrote, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us,” he was acknowledging the connection that invariably exists between our faith in God and our faith in people, to love us well.
Because the Holy Spirit called Ron and I to bring knowledge of Covenant to the Body, he has revealed to us the profound need of the human heart — if it is to thrive — to put faith in others and have that faith renewed by faithfulness. The otherwise is that our faith is broken, and a wound is inflicted.
Because we live among a people — like us — who are flawed and not unfailingly good, wounds come with some regularity; little ones, big one, devastating ones. For many this too easily translates into a deep, if unspoken, belief (or fear) that God himself is not really good, because he doesn’t make people be good to me.
If I’ve learned anything about God, it’s that he doesn’t make anyone do anything. He draws, he teaches, he encourages us like any parent training up a child; but people will do what they want in the freedom God has given them.
The second reaction to being wounded by the ungoodness of others is just the opposite, and is only learned through walking with God for a season in full trust. It looks like this, and I can only express it very personally: when people fail me, my hope in God’s goodness is what comforts me. When I stop gazing at the hurt and turn to Him, I find rest in His unfailing love; the places left empty by others are filled up in me.
It was meant to be so for all who lean on Jesus. Indeed, this is the basis for his promise, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Yes, God satisfies my appetite to be loved well when others do not. Unfailingly good, God is. (As we say in Yoda-speak).