Once again I find myself in the midst of a mystery. How can a child with behavior problems be teaching me about goodness? This requires a little research. Let's go back to the Greek and see what Paul is really talking about here. The Greek word is agathosune (ag-ath-o-soo-nay) and guess what it means: goodness, virtue, beneficence. It comes from the word agathos (ag-ath-os) which means good, benefit, or well. All right then, what exactly do we mean by the word good. In this world of moral relativism, what does good mean, anyway? For such a small word, it seems it is hard to wrap it in a nice neat package. According to the En Carta World English Dictionary (1999) there are 33 uses or definitions! Here are three that jumped out at me when viewed through the prism of a child with special needs:
When used as an adjective:
- indicating that something is approved of or desirable
- having the appropriate qualities to be something or to fit a particular purpose
- worthy of honor or high esteem
Goodness is not a characteristic generated by the individual. Rather it is a gift bestowed by the observer. To be specific: in the end it does not matter how many tantrums my little girl had today, the key is how I view her. Do I approve of her, find her desirable, remember that she was created for a purpose, and consider her worthy of esteem? These are my choices, not hers. I can choose to call her good when I remember how God looks upon me. Every person bears His image. Each of us is marred in some way by sin - our own and others' - but when He looks at us He sees Jesus. God knew that we could never be "good for" our debt of sin...we could never pay the penalty of not meeting His standard of "good - having or showing an upright and virtuous character" all the time. So He sent Jesus to cover our debt, and when we accept His payment He no longer sees the debts, just that Jesus paid it all. I can choose this same attitude toward my daughter. I can choose to see her goodness as a fellow image bearer of God. This really could change everything.