What God is Like (Musings on the character of God) #7

Predictably good…

The Jesus character in The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis is a fierce lion named, “Aslan.” One of Aslan’s most notable characteristics was his unpredictability. He seemed capricious, almost fickle at times. He would show up sometimes and save the day, and at other times he would wait and sort of let things run their course. There were times when he would only show himself to one person and remain invisible to the rest. One of the characters in the first book of the series asked another about Aslan, “Is he safe?” He replied, “No. He‘s not safe, but he’s good.”

When I’m talking about God and the way he acts I try not to use the words “always” or “never” – in this case, “usually” or “often” are more accurate. “He usually does this or that.” But when we’re talking about God’s character, I think we may say with confidence, “always” and “never.” He is who he is all the time. Since he’s perfect he doesn’t have to change anything. He’s not getting better. He’s already better! So when I say, “God is always this way or is never that way,” it’s not the same as saying he always does this thing or never does that thing. To my mind, his actions are not nearly as predictable as his character.

Am I making sense? I’m proposing that God’s character is predictable, but how he expresses his character might shock us. He might do something one day with one person, and then on another day with another person do it an altogether different way. His actions are not as predictable as his character. He’s predictably good, predictably just, and predictably kind. But when he expresses his goodness or justice or kindness in particular situations, he can’t be so easily anticipated. He doesn’t always heal everyone, he doesn’t always alleviate every person’s suffering, he doesn’t always do what we want him to do even when we have the right faith, say the right words, or push all the right buttons.

Since only God is like God, it’s pretty tough for me to grade his work. His performance, which exudes from his Person, is unique to him because he is unique. I can’t very well grade him if I’m not like him. Only he is as wise as he is. I try to remember this when he doesn’t “perform” in a way that would tend to please me.

I was thinking that if God weren’t good, what would he be? What are the alternatives to him being predictably good? I guess it’s possible that he is only partially good. I don’t know that this is very likely since I’m pretty sure he isn’t partially anything. That would introduce the possibility of mixture in God, and it makes me shudder to think that the Maker has evil as part of his makeup! When he claims to be holy and commands us to be holy also, how wicked would it be for him to be anything but perfect!

The only other alternative, I suppose, is that he’s entirely wicked and has no good whatsoever in his personality. I think met some people that could be described this way, but God? How bad would our world be if it turned out to be true that God is all bad!

Thankfully, the reality is that God is not bad, but is the quintessential do-gooder! Goodness is such an integral part of his character he can’t help himself; he has to do good.

During a time of intense struggle I ran across an obscure verse that changed the way I think about God’s goodness. I wrote a chapter about it in my Memoir. Here’s an excerpt from it.

 

Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The LORD will do what is good in his sight. 1 Chronicles 19:13

I know what my job is – to be strong and fight bravely. God’s job, on the other hand, is to do what is good in his sight. I have to do what I’m supposed to do, and then trust that he’ll do what only he can do, i.e. what is good in his sight. What’s good in his sight might not always be what’s good in mine. He and I don’t always agree about what is good. And guess whose opinion – about what is good and virtually everything else – actually matters!

The Bible says a couple of other things about what is good: “No good thing will he withhold from them who walk uprightly…” That’s one of those super-promises in the Bible. In another place it says that God “works all things together for good to those who love him…” which is another super-promise. But then Jesus said, “There’s none good but God.” In other words, God is going to do what is good in his sight, but since we’re not good, we wouldn’t know good if it slapped us in the face!

Joab made it clear that God would do what was good in his own sight, and not necessarily in theirs. All they knew to do was to be strong and fight bravely. They could do that. That was their job. God’s job, on the other hand, was to be involved in the outcome. And if they did their part, God would do his and see that things turned out, “good in his sight.”

What’s good in his sight is what is commensurate with his good character. He is good, the only good, and what he thinks and does is good. Since I’m not in charge of “good,” I’ll have to trust him to do his job well and make good out of bad every chance he gets. I do still tell him what I think he ought to do – about this thing and that. It just seems impossible to withhold the urge. But I usually include an addendum of something like, “But feel free to go ahead and do what is good in your sight.”

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