Finding the Good
Finding the Good
In the book A Walk Across America the author Peter Jenkins describes what lead up to the decision that resulting in him walking across America. Motivation for the walk stemmed from disillusionment with American society in the early 1970’s. He was fed up with the country and was actually thinking about leaving. In relating his frustration to a security guard at the college he was attending, the older gentleman said to him, “What you need to do, Peter is stop believing all those slick people on the television and news and stop listening to those crazy people making that stuff they call music….if all you college kids want to leave this country or burn it down, you better be mighty sure you know what you’re doing…if you want to leave, go right ahead, but first you…ought to give this country a chance. It’s the greatest….place that ever happened to this whole world, and if you don’t believe me, try it” (pp. 15-16). Thus he starts out to find what this country is all about and in the end he finds a lot of good. I can identify with Peter; there was a time that I too was cynical about this country. And maybe you are reading this and feel the same way. Yet here is what I have learned over the years:
- Sin can make you cynical. For example, the people who turned from God in Romans chapter one, and who felt they were being really smart in the process (Romans 1:21-22), ended up jaded, cynical and just hard to get along with (Romans 1:31).
- If you are cynical, do you want to remain that way? How is that working for you?
- I found that being cynical or angry drains away any real hopes of overall happiness and happiness in your relationships as well.
- In addition, wanting to find the bad tends to limit the people and the conversations that you remain with or in. I have found that bitter people tend to remove themselves from all the encouraging situations, because such threatens their worldview.
- If you are young and a bit discouraged, you are not the first person or generation to have opted for a cynical view of a country, people, the church or the future. That is an easy attitude to adopt, especially if you are looking for a reason not to work on yourself, looking for a reason to feel sorry for yourself, or looking for a reason to justify your anger.
What are You Looking For?
If you want to find hypocrisy, you will find it. Plenty of it exists, all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and most people are on the broad path (Matthew 7:13-14). Yet here is what I have found.
- When we are trying to find imperfection, sin or hypocrisy in others, it often means that we are running from the truth. Instead of wanting the truth, we are just looking for a reason to scoff at or ignore evidence to the contrary.
- Looking for the bad in people says a lot about us. It reveals that there is something definitely wrong in our heart and moral character. For genuine love does not rejoice in the failures, inconsistencies or sins of others (1 Corinthians 13:6).
- You will not grow as long as you feel smug or superior to others.
- “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles” (Proverbs 24:17).
Remember, our enemy, who is also God’s enemy, still has a soul. When God judges someone, everybody should stand in fear. “God never rejoices in the death of a sinner, so gloating over the defeat of any enemy would surely anger Him (Ezekiel 33:11)” (Alden p. 174). Taking pleasure in seeing people fail, contradict themselves or act inconsistently is not in the character of God. Rather, such exists in the character of Satan. Remember, Satan is called the “accuser” (Revelation 12:10). So there is something wrong with us if we are “thriving” on hearing bad news or pointing the finger at others.
- It has been my experience that when one is concentrating on finding the flaws and inconsistencies in others, that we are completely blind to our own sins. Instead of looking for the bad in others, it would be a much better use of my time to deal with my own sins.
- When you are focusing on finding the bad in others, you tend to misread and misinterpret a lot of things. You end up finding a lot of imaginary hypocrisy in the process. By contrast, “Love hopes all things, believes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). In other words, without any evidence to the contrary, love believes the best about a person. Love does not automatically put the worse possible spin on what a person might have meant.
Matthew 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness”.
- Just like the eye was designed to bring “light” in, your perspective was designed to bring light into the inner you. But if your perspective is only bringing in darkness, then you have just cut yourself off from any opportunity for light.
- We have all seen this with cynical people, and maybe we even saw this in ourselves at one time. How many times have you tried to encourage someone or give them some good news and they immediately responded with a discouraging comment or ignored and discounted it?
- A real test of our character is whether or not we really want to find the good in people.
Are There Genuine Christians?
Is anyone really obeying God? Does anyone really have genuine motivation, are there people who do love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength?
- The answer is yes. In Romans 11:2-5, Paul reminds the Christians in Rome that just as there existed a remnant of faithful people in the time of Elijah (11:3-5), “in the same way the, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant” (11:5).
- In every age, there have been people who truly do love God. Noah stood out in his generation (Genesis 6:8). So did Joseph, Abraham, Daniel, Moses, etc..
- John said that there were Christians in his time who were walking in the truth (2 John 4).
Are There Genuine Churches?
- In the book of Revelation there are two congregations for which Jesus only lavishes them with praise (Revelation 2:8-11; 3:7-13). In like manner, Paul bestows much praise upon the church at Thessalonica, commenting upon:
- Their work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope: 1:3
- They became imitators of Jesus: 1:6
- The word sounded forth from them: 1:8
- They had immediately give up their pagan past: 1:9
- Their fervent love for each other: 4:9-10
Continue to Meet People and You will Find…
- There are Christians who are working very hard.
- There are Christians who are enduring tremendous suffering with wonderful attitudes.
- There amazing stories about answered prayers.
- There are people who have overcome terrible upbringings and tremendous odds that seemed all against them.
- There are Christians who have overcome big time addictions and temptations (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
- People who are suffering, but yet hopeful and not bitter.
- The most unlikely people who accepted the gospel and even went into preaching it for a living.