The Goodness of God in a World of Evil

by the Rev. Jon Rusnak

My good friend has been in litigation for the past ten years. He did not choose that. He has been under a conservator who has not carried out her responsibilities and at the mercy of several judges who have not attended to him. A new judge was recently appointed, however. He has gone to great lengths to sort through the mess, filing an order to hold the negligent conservator in contempt of court, appoint a new conservator and document the last decade in a 24-page memorandum. The judge is simply doing his job, but it is remarkable because we do not expect good things or good people.

While it is good for us when jobs are done, responsibilities are fulfilled and people are served, no human good or good human is good in the eyes of God (Rom. 3:12). Only He is good (Mark 10:17). There is no good apart from Him (Ps. 16:2; John 15:5). All our goodness is worthless because none of it lasts. Only His goodness lasts.

He sent His Son into this evil world. Word about Him was spreading, and Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Better than anyone could know! Those who saw Jesus open a deaf man’s ears said, “He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37), and they had not even seen His best stuff. How unexpected, undeserved and uncommon is the Good News of Jesus Christ! By doing what is best for us, He frees us from doing what is best for ourselves and frees us to glorify Him by doing what is best for others (Matt. 5:14–6; Mark 10:45; Luke 6:27–36; 1 Peter 4:10–11; 2 Thess. 3:13; 1 Cor. 10:24).

As we receive God’s goodness in Christ and rely on Him for everything good, are we not called to return to Him our thanks and to respond by reflecting His goodness to others? As we pray for good things in the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer (notice how Luther uses “good” when he describes “daily bread” in the Small Catechism), are we not God’s answer to the prayers of others? Does God not provide for His people through people and their various vocations? “Whatever you are, be a good one,” Abraham Lincoln supposedly said. Whoever said it, it is well said. Be the goodness of God in this world of evil!

The Rev. Jon Rusnak is pastor of Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church, Garrison, Minn.

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