Jesus, The Objective Definition Of The Word Good
“Jason, I think it’s really important that we all agree on the definition of the word ‘good.’ You might think something is good while someone else might think that very same thing is bad.”
I nodded in agreement with the fella.
He was right; for the entirety of my life, much of the church has seemed pretty confused about the definition of a lot of words—the word ‘good’ chief among them. Looking back through history, it appears to be a confusion nearly as old as time—especially when describing the nature of God.
But I recognized by the tension and tone of the fella’s voice, and by how quickly he stood when the pastor asked if “anyone had any thoughts or questions,” that he was unnerved and possibly offended.
It was a Wednesday night at a local church where I had just finished speaking on the always good, never leaving, reconciling love of God. I had told a story about a fan in the Philippines that oscillated; one moment, it was my reward, the next, my punishment.
And I’d shared that Greater Love isn’t like that fan. He isn’t fickle. He is never our punishment and always our reward. Greater Love has never turned away. He never oscillates.
Over the years, I’ve discovered the more I share on the never-oscillating, non-punishing, always-good love of God, the more I am challenged on the definition of the word ‘good.’
My early responses were simply a confused, “Good means good.” But I’ve learned, when it comes to the nature of God, while we all read from the same Bible, we’re not all searching through the same lens.
So, it’s understandable we might wrestle with our definitions.
When you grow up in the disparity of a loving God who oscillates, a kind God with a hateful streak—when God’s goodness is often presented through the cruel and punishing lens of hell trains, you’re forced to do mental gymnastics around the definition of a lot of words. And many Christian backs have been broken trying to acrobat our way around the word good.
I opened my iPad and went to the dictionary definition I had put there years earlier for just such occasions.
“Good: morally excellent; virtuous, righteous, of high quality, worth, benefit. Good could be used in a sentence as follows: What good will that do? We shall work for the common good. To do good. To be a power for good.”
Then, I told a story about the street taco I had in Mexico City.
In short, it wasn’t good.
And when I say, “It wasn’t good,” I am not referring to its flavor. I’m not writing subjectively. Rather, I’m talking about the following 24 hours I spent hugging a toilet while lying on a tiled public bathroom floor in an old church just outside Mexico City.
While the taco tasted good, as it turned out, it wasn’t good. And this delineation is both important and easy to grasp.
Words mean something. Good has a definition that is wildly different from the definition of the word bad.
That taco was the opposite of good, the antonym, bad—that’s the word. And not just bad; it was cruel and punishing! But I digress.
When I use the word good to describe God, I am not communicating subjectively. I’m not making “a god to my own liking,” as offended brothers and sisters have occasionally suggested. My subjective thoughts don’t get a say in how Jesus defined the word, and Jesus is the revelation of what good means.
Jesus is the sovereign definition of “morally excellent, virtuous, righteous, of high quality, worth, and benefit.”
And Jesus fully revealed goodness as Greater Love when He laid His life down for you and me. God’s goodness is self-giving, other-centered love. It is “patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, and does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” 1
And it’s a sovereign always.
So, dear church, let’s get on the same page. God’s love is always good, as Jesus defined it.
I agreed with the fella. The whole world is desperate to know and experience the objective definition of the word good. More to the point of this book, the whole world needs the Church to foundationally define the word good on the Greatef Love Cornerstone—Christ crucified and risen! This goodness is the certainty upon which we can build our faith.
When it comes to the nature of God, we, the Church, must stop manipulating the word good to fit our cruel theologies and punishing interpretations of God and Scripture. The goodness of God is not a subjective ‘flavor of the day,’ nor does it bend the knee to our experience, understanding, or hermeneutic. God is love, and His goodness doesn’t oscillate; it is not cruel nor fickle like the wind. It does not punish and has never left or forsaken us.
The goodness of God is revealed in a Son who lays down His life, a Holy Spirit who always reconciles, and in a faithful Father who never leaves. Greater Love has never once looked away.
1 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
This article is excerpted from my book, Leaving and Finding Jesus
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