And by "good," I mean things that are actually good. Not risks that might pay off, not guesses at what seems good on this side of history. Provable, actual, verifiable good. Good you can be absolutely sure is good.
It's harder than it sounds, because knowing that what you're doing is truly beneficial requires a lot of understanding of a situation - the kind of understanding that, if you're honest, you don't have. For instance, donating $10 to build a well for a village in Africa seems good, and it probably is good, but if you're honest you don't really know the ins and outs of what makes that good, or what could make it better, or what would make it worse. You probably just saw something that told you to text a word to a number and you donated $10. Could the time and money you spent have been used for something better? In the broad context of history and world economics, it's almost impossible to know.
Nevertheless, you donated because you wanted to do good, and you still want to do good. But good motivation is really nothing more than a good start. What's difficult and frustrating is being sure that you are doing good in the end. I think a great number of people felt very confident that the Supreme Court accomplished something good in their decision about same-sex marriage last week. And I know a great number of people would have felt certain that the Supreme Court accomplished something good if their decision had gone in the other direction. Both sides of this argument feel so incredibly confident that they are doing what is right and good - so how can we know who is doing actual good?
Where we have questions - Do you want to do good? How do you know if you did? Does our best chance at making a positive difference in our world include a calculated risk whose value will only be determined on another side of history? Or can we do good, right now, and be sure it's good? - God has answers.
The value of a person's good works can, hypothetically, come from seeing the entire tapestry of life and the universe and time, and choosing the best next thing to do. Realistically, though, we can't do that. We aren't smart enough, big enough, or even good enough to really know what is truly right and good on our own. However, there is another way, and for the next 3 Sundays at Illumine we're going to talk about what good really looks like and how it happens.
This sermon series, called "Free, Indeed?", will examine just how free the human will is, just where good can come from, and just what surprising things are actually good from God's perspective. It will challenge you - whether or not you're a Christian - because we all want to be doing good.
If you want to do good, if you want to be confident that what you're doing is going to be proven as valuable and worthwhile and good, then I'd invite you to join us for this discussion. There's a narrow gate through which we must walk if true good is going to come from us, and we'll be building that gate together as we talk and think.
I hope you can join us.
-Pastor Kent Reeder
P.S. This sermon series is special because, for the first time, Illumine will be making the message available in video format online. As opposed to offering a streaming service, we've chosen to adopt a format that will give our online worshipers a custom product, tailored for them, that will be made available at 10AM on Sunday mornings via our Facebook page, Twitter account, and website.