being a good person

Can you have a good life if you’re not a good person?” -Dallas Willard

I’ve been thinking about this question ever since it was asked to me.  I love a good question, it exercises my thinking muscles, and processing it burns the fuzz off my thinking.

This question forces you to dig in the back of your brain and ask questions like, “how do we define, “good?”   Good in today’s society may be subjective. It is subjective precisely because we live in a society that claims that everyone’s own opinion is right.   In a world where everyone is right then everyone IMG_1312is their own version of good.   Many claim that humanity is basically “good,” in fact this is the claim of many world religions, but what does reality tell us?  Regardless of how we define “good”, does the reality that we are living in point toward the goodness of humanity or the flawed nature of humanity?

We live in a society where we glorify what is evil by calling it good.  Television and movies do this in spades, and you can read my thoughts about it here.  I live in a reality where people can be wrong, everyone else does too, and they just don’t realize it. If we believe that people can be wrong,  then, could it be possible that they are wrong about what they perceive to be good?  Good is so subjective because, we live in a world where everyone’s opinion is right.  If everyone perceives themselves as correct, then everyone’s definition of “good” is also correct. That makes for seven billion definitions of the word “good.”

Lets look at an age-old definition of the word, “love” for more insight to what is good.  The word, Agape means, love, and is used in the Bible to talk of love.  Because I am trying to make an argument that applies in secular circles, I am only going to talk about the usage of Agape in the context of Greek Philosophy.   The word Agape (among other things) means, “will-to good” or willing the benefit of what or who is loved.  In easier terms it means that you activity work for the benefit or good of others, and this is where we find a definition of the word “good” that is thousands of years old.

Can you love cake?  No, because you cannot work for its benefit, only its demise.  You can desire cake, which goes to show our confusion with the word love and therefore what is “good.”   If we accept that “love” and “good” work together, then I think we have a working definition of what is good.  “Good” and “love” work together because in order to do good or to benefit someone, you have to love them.

This all brings us back to the original question: Can you have a good life if you’re not a good person?  Can you work for the benefit of someone else and hate them?  The fact of the matter is that you can hate someone and do something for their benefit, it is possible.  But, is it sustainable?  To hate someone and actively work for their benefit would make you hypocritical.  Ultimately, one cannot live in a state of sustained dualism for long without breaking.

I do not believe that you can have a good life if you are not a good person.  I think that these things go hand in hand.  In order to have a good life we need to think about what it means to be a good person.  Once we figure out what it means to be a good person and live it, then I think a good life will follow.

If you accept what I am laying out there as truth, then wouldn’t it make sense to then explore what love is?  When we learn how to live in this Agape type of love, then we will begin to find out what it means to be a good person.

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the value of play

Last month I spent three days learning from Dallas Willard.  He was talking about creation and he said something that has stuck in my head ever since.  He said, “Creation for God was an act of joy, it was play for God.  Play is the creation of values that are unnecessary.”  I had IMG_5296never looked at the act of creation as a time for God to play.  Then He defined Joy as, “persistent wellbeing.” I began to wonder, what is the value that is unnecessary in creation?  The value is: us, animals, trees, figs, water, birds, hippos, zebra’s, intelligence, the circulatory system, photosynthesis, sex, the moon and stars and sun.  Willard’s idea was that God was playing when he made the earth.

My kids play, in watching them I am reminded that there is something Godlike in playing.  I wonder if that is one of the reasons why Jesus said, “let the little children come to me.”  Maybe kids get God on a deeper level because they still have an imagination.  Maybe their reality is far more limitless than ours.  Whatever it is, maybe there is something to playing.

It is in God’s unnecessary love that He lavished on humanity that we begin to see the necessity of love in our life.  According to scientist our brains are wired for love.  What was once unnecessary is now something that we cannot live without.  The fact that God is Love is revealed in the creation and His rejoicing over it.

You can tell your kids that you love them all the time, but I think it is in play that it’s realized.  It is simply unnecessary to get your toenails painted or play hide and seek when they always hide in the exact spot that you just hid in.  Play reveals a love that is inexpressible otherwise.  Their ability to conceive your verbal affirmation of love will only arrive far later than they need it.

May you understanding of God’s love for you grow as you realize that creation is the only way to express that which is otherwise inexpressible.

May you create a value that is unnecessary.

May you get your toes painted or throw a football just because you can.  In so doing, may you find a state of persistent wellbeing.

As Paul says to the people of Ephesus, And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

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