I was recently asked to expound on the nature of the goodness of God in a manner that describes what is meant by goodness, rather than what is not meant.
There is nothing one can point to other than God to illustrate what is absolutely good. The reason stating what is not meant is easier than stating what is meant, is that we can point to things that are not God for an example, but to speak of what is meant, I can only point to God.
Many would dismiss this as circular reasoning. What is good? God. How do we know God is good? God. To be true, it is something that cannot be proven by another measure. If God were not the supreme good, then if there is such a thing, something else would have to be that self-referencing standard.
Humans certainly aren’t absolute references for ultimate good. This is a fact we know too well. And yet, if we know it, how do we explain that we know it? How do we have a sense that we aren’t doing what is right all the time? And yet, we do know this. We know we fail to be good even though most of us want to be good and beat ourselves up internally when we are not. If we reject the Biblical reason for this conflict between our desire to be good and our failure to be thus, what are we left with?
Of course, there are many postulations by many different belief systems, but all religion puts forth the need for striving to be more moral, better people. Prayers, petitions, penance, and priest are all a part of our attempt to be better than we are and to somehow qualify for something greater than we deserve. Christianity is not exempt. In many people, churches, and cultures, Christianity is about doing the same thing – striving to be better on their own merit to earn God’s acceptance.
It’s not really debatable any longer that across the board we know we fail to be what we feel we ought to be. But where is this invisible standard that makes it impossible to do whatever we want without any guilt? Why are we guilt ridden? Why do we call those who cannot distinguish right from wrong, insane?
The Bible says the truth of God is written all around us in nature so that we are without excuse. We all know we have fallen short. We all know there is a good that we do not measure up to. Jesus came to show us the way out of our sins and guilt. He came not to condemn us for we were in that place of condemnation already. We knew full well the guilt and He came not to heap more rules and condemnation upon us, but to remove it. He came to do all the “work” to qualify for us, because work would never get us there. But He can get us there and He who was pure because impure (became sin) for us and took the wages of sin upon Himself. He took it all to the grave and He rose again leaving it all buried so that we no longer have to strive to burry our sins, for He came to bring life to whosoever will step into Him and experience His life.
The reason we fail to be good, is because we are separated from the good God. Jesus dealt with the sin so that we could be transformed in Him and know the Father just as we know Him. For if we have seen Jesus we have seen the Father. The good life is not something we can work for, but something we can be given by the good Father.
This is the essence of the goodness of God. His heart is turned towards us while we were yet sinners. We were unable to make ourselves good, because goodness was not something that is separate from God. So the only way to become good is for God to take us into Himself again and He did this through Jesus. There is no other name, no other way, and no other life that will do it for us. We have a full history from the beginning of time of man trying and failing to be good on their own. We know this full well.
Goodness is not definable because a definition denotes limitation and His goodness knows no bounds. Goodness can only be known by personal experiential connection with God directly or indirectly. Sometimes the indirect experience precedes the direct. We see the goodness of God by seeing a supernatural love demonstrated by a follower of Jesus, or we hear testimony of a miracle that opens our heart towards Him. Sometimes it is a direct experience where God covers us in His presence and we feel and know His amazing goodness and love. There are many ways to witness the goodness of God, and once our eyes are open to recognize Him we see that He was there all along and His goodness never failed us.