11.17.2016

How and Why to Do Good

It feels good to do good.  For many of us, it's why we do good.  And there's nothing wrong with that feeling.  In fact, there's everything right about it.

And yet we have to be careful not to do good because it feels good.  Because sometimes it doesn't feel good, at least at an immediate and shallow level.

When we take care of a crabby toddler or an elderly parent with dementia, they may not give us the positive strokes that make doing good feel good.  They may not say, "hey, you busted your butt for me today and I know I wasn't easy; thanks."  In fact, they may yell at you, lunge at you, not even recognize you.  To put forth acts of love and to receive nothing back or worse; that doesn't feel good.

When we take up an unpopular cause, or stand up to entrenched power, or quietly work on something momentous behind the scenes, our good deeds can be met with opposition, ridicule, or apathy.  What we are doing may be worthy of a parade, of a chapter in the biography of our lives, of a thousand likes and retweets.  But the immediate feedback we get from the people around us may be non-recognition or outright anger.  That doesn't feel good.

Sometimes our good deeds are met with gratitude and acknowledgement and respect.  That feels good.  But sometimes our good deeds are met with opposition or crankiness or attitude.  That doesn't feel good.  What are we to do with this feedback loop?  Only do good when we know we'll get positive strokes?  Suck it up and concede that doing good sometimes sucks?  Stop doing good altogether?

In my morning Bible readings, I just got to the part in the gospel of Luke where Jesus is betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and abandoned by all of his followers.  People he invested every single waking hour to teach, train, and be with are nowhere to be found at the very moment he is being sold out, condemned, and vilified.  At the moment in his life in which he was doing the greatest good, he received in response betrayal and denial and abandonment.

The author of Hebrews describes Jesus' motivation in these last days as "for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  Joy and exaltation are not absent from his motivation for enduring the cross and despising the shame.  For the Christian, doing good feels good even when it doesn't feel good.  Not because we grit our teeth through the pain but because joy and exaltation are set before us.  A people who are duly motivated can and should be empowered to do great good in a world in which doing good is greatly needed. 
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