Do you want to do good? Do you want to be on the right side of history on issues that matter? Do you sympathize with the wronged, the downtrodden, the underprivileged, those who have no voice? Good! And so you should, as loving others is how those who do not care will see we really follow Christ. Yet how do we do good? Do we work for good results using good means, or have we crossed over to the camp that says the end justifies the means and anything goes, as long as we achieve our desired result?
“…they are no more than false apostles and dishonest workers. They only pretend to be apostles of Christ. And it is no wonder. Even Satan tries to make himself look like an angel of light. So why does it seem strange for Satan’s servants to pretend to do what is right? Someday they will get exactly what they deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 CEV)
Let me be clear: not all who are concerned about right and wrong, about social justice and issues that concern the underprivileged, have submitted themselves to the authority of Christ and are right with God. There are scores of people active on social issues who see themselves as caring, concerned, good people but reject Christ altogether, as well as His authority in their life. They think they can be good people apart from any religion; they genuinely believe there is an objective standard of right and wrong they can attain to apart from the power and influence of the Holy Spirit in their lives–but they are misguided.
This is not to say that you can’t do anything good–anything that helps another person–if you’re not a Christian. Of course you can; many philanthropists have been secularists. What you can’t do apart from the influence and guidance of God’s Spirit is see straight. What do I mean by that?
The problem with facing life apart from the influence of God is that we are vulnerable to deception–look at Eve. What happened there? She wanted to be wise, but is that in itself bad? Is it wrong to want to know more, to understand things you didn’t, to be better at something? Of course not! Wanting wisdom wasn’t wrong; trying to get it by disobeying God was. And that’s what happens when we reject God’s influence in our life–we don’t see how the good we are about to do is actually really bad.
Take the issue of abortion. Those on the pro side may be genuinely well-intentioned individuals who want good for girls and young women finding themselves in a difficult situation that threatens to alter the trajectory of their lives. They see the scraping out of the living being–the cells that comprise a growing child in their bodies–as doing these women a service, not the egregious injury it is to both mother and child. Yet they have been deceived, because you cannot achieve good by doing wrong, and killing an unborn child’s life is wrong–regardless of the means of conception or the strain it will bring upon the life of the mother.
Satan is a real being. Not a pitchfork-wielding tailed character from a child’s storybook, but a powerful spiritual force of evil who seeks to interfere in and destroy the lives of human beings–our lives: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT)
What do we know about him? Well, he’s a murderer, and has been from the beginning. He has absolutely no truth in himself–he is a liar, and therefore, he lies–sometimes outrightly, sometimes by interspersing bits of truth so the lie is more palatable. He blinds the eyes of those who want no part of Jesus Christ so they really can’t see truth anymore. He is scheming, deceitful and fully evil. Yet, he is also capable of making himself look like an angel of light–and can cause those whom he’s using to look genuinely good too, so we fall for whatever he’s trying to accomplish.
Make no mistake, we’re up against deception, against forces far more powerful than what we can resist independently, because we simply don’t have enough wherewithal to be able to separate out truth from error, lies from deception, on our own. But we don’t have to–God has given us the tools we need to not fall for this stuff. The Message paraphrase explains well:
“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over…you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” (Ephesians 6:13-18 MSG)
What we have to understand is that rather than making us mindless automatons with no will of our own, trusting in God through Christ, and then studying the Bible and living according to its dictates, fills us with the Holy Spirit–with the ability, the tools, we need to not fall for the onslaught of deception that gets slung at us daily.
We may not think it is, but our vision is not clear–it’s clouded, distorted by our sin nature. Our capacity to make an objective evaluation of right and wrong is skewed, and without the plumb line of God’s input into the situation, we will probably err–all the while believing we are doing good. This is why more often than not, when we try to fix a situation apart from God we just make it worse. Jesus explained, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to Me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without Me.” (John 15:5 CEV)
Certainly we can do stuff, but in light of whether it’s really effective for true good–apart from God it’ll just be us stirring the pot, trying to do something but not really helping; maybe even causing harm. Anything of genuine good and eternal significance needs to be done through Christ, and the means–how we do what we’re doing–is as important as the results. But if we’re sticking with Jesus, we already know that and won’t make that mistake.
If we stick with Him we won’t, as a matter of fact, make any of the mistakes that people make when they’re deceived into veering away from doing life God’s way. Because ultimately, the things that look right are good only if they genuinely are good–and when we stay with Him, God gives us the ability to see clearly to make that determination.
So, do you want to do good? Do you want to be on the right side of history on issues that matter? Stick with what God says in His Word, because apart from Him you can do nothing of genuine significance!
Help me “stay joined to…[You], so I “will produce lots of fruit,” because I “cannot do anything [of significance] without…[You].” Amen.