Why Should We Strive for Goodness by Kimberly Reisman
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:3-9, NRSV)
As 2023 drew to a close, I began pondering various themes that might help strengthen our witness and draw us closer to God and one another as we pray and fast in this new year. Through this process of reflection, my mind continually came back to the importance of the moral life. In these days of conflict and contempt, the world needs to see embodiments of virtue and an authentic commitment to the moral life. It’s a crucial foundation for us as we grow in our faith and reach out to our hurting world with the good news of Jesus.
I believe the moral life is worth striving for because God created us for it. In Ephesians 2:10 Paul tells us, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” I love that the New Living Translation uses the word “masterpiece” because it so closely reflects the Greek word that Paul uses – poiema. We are God’s work of art, God’s masterpiece, and we were made for goodness.
When we fall short of that calling, we become strangers both to ourselves and to God. However, when we accept God’s gift of power and work toward becoming the good selves God created us to be, we find happiness. Not a surface, psychological happiness, or simply feeling good, but a deeply rooted sense of doing what we were created to do and being the type of person we were created to be.
Jesus alluded to this type of deep happiness when he talked about “blessedness” the Sermon on the Mount – that passage that began our devotional this month. This kind of deep happiness – this blessedness – comes when we are able to live in the joy of God’s presence and in the loving community of God’s people.
Years ago, there was a movie, Chariots of Fire about a young Scottish missionary who delays his plans to go to China in order to run in the Olympics. His sister tries to convince him to stop running and focus again on his mission work. His reply points to the deep happiness I’m talking about. He says, “I believe God made me for a purpose: that’s China. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.” When we live according to our purpose, when we choose to be the good self God created us to be, we will experience true happiness; we will feel God’s pleasure. And that happiness, that sense of God’s pleasure will reflect outward to others in powerful ways.
As you pray and fast this month, bring to mind the things you do that make you feel God’s pleasure. Reflect as well on the ways in which you may not be living as the good self God created you to be. I will be praying as well, that as we all strive to live as God’s masterpieces, doing all the good things he planned for us long ago, we would reflect God’s pleasure outward to the world.