By REV. DR. BRIAN GIGEE
(3rd in a series of four articles focusing on ancient sayings from the Bible and other cultures.)
“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” – (Proverbs 3:7-8)
For all of my life I’ve been taught I am a sinner and a saint. All the time. At the same time. It’s a both/and kind of thing rather than an either/or set of circumstances. Not only was I taught this… I have 6.5 decades of living to prove it. There are some who see the good in me. There are others who see the evil in me. And those closest to me know that both good and evil reside in me daily side by side. It’s also part of why I spent 40 years struggling to be a good pastor and why I am a lot less like Pope Francis and a lot more like Friar Tuck (pronounced ‘took!’). True… there is goodness all around us and true… there is goodness in each of us and sometimes we all need to increase our efforts to see the good in others.
Don’t believe me? The native Americans knew… “Inside each person is the battle of two wolves. One is good and one is evil. The one you feed is the one who wins.” Or listen to the voice of Russian forced-labor camp survivor, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who once said… “The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every person.” He fought to defend his country but was sent to prison for criticizing the leadership of his day. Even don Vito Corleone loved his family. He gave them Christmas presents and he died in the garden playing hide-n-seek with his grandson. But he is remembered more for paying people to kill other people. So, sometimes we must go looking for the good in others. And sometimes it is very difficult to find. Very. Difficult. To. Find. Faith matters. It does.
Plato suggested this… “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” What does that kind of lesson mean? Or when we read… “Blessed is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of mockers. But their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on God’s law they meditate day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2 NIV). Does this have something to do with free will and free choice? Perhaps. Yet, no matter how many times we think we get it right on a personal or collective level, there always seems to be more work to do. St. Paul used this imagery… “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15 NIV). And, if this is indeed true for me or you or anyone … it is easy to see how judgmental any one of us can become. Wouldn’t it be easier just to separate the good folks from the evil ones? Who gets to decide? Me? You? Our worst sworn enemy? We could all end up in the gulag or the gallows.
Confusing? I get it. Think how confusing it was for Jesus’ disciples and those who followed him. They were anticipating a new ruler! They were hopeful about a new day and a new impending reign of God. They hailed Jesus as ‘messiah’ riding humbly into Jerusalem as that new king. They called him “Lord” and called him “Savior” and the religious leaders called him a blasphemer forcing the Romans to kill him as an outlaw. No wonder we are called to love one another as Christ has first loved us… as it does not take much for any of us to get it wrong. Right? Be wise, then. Seek God’s goodness… bringing healing and refreshment to all!
Rev. Dr. Brian K. Gigee is a long-time resident of Pearland, having pastored in Texas and Louisiana the last four decades. Follow his blog ‘murmurings’ at https://briangigee.wordpress.com/. Send comments and/or questions to [email protected].