A time to do good
There are three words to pay special attention to in this passage: “Do,” “Good,” and “All.” The verses that lead up to today’s verse for our devotional reflection are ethical exhortations of one kind or another. We are admonished to restore sinners gently, to watch over our own selves against temptation, to carry each other’s burdens. We are to do this because in doing so we are fulfilling the law of Christ. We are to examine our own actions, and never compare ourselves to others, and we should share all good things with those who instruct us in the word. Notice that all of these are actions of goodness toward others.
Our verse for today, defines the Christian life very succinctly. To be a Christian is not a passive thing. Our faith requires us to act, to do what Christ has commanded us to do. If we hear the word, but do not act on it, we are told that we would be, “like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” (Matthew 7:26) Therefore, to be a believer means much more than merely saying it.
We are to be doers of our faith. What are we to do? We are to do all that is good. God is the source and the goal of all that is good. We come to know the good by listening to the word of God. Yes, it is true that there is much evil around us, but the best way to conquer evil is to do good. Sometimes that means we will suffer, because the world no longer recognizes, or no longer respect the good. Why should it be any different for us than it was for Jesus? It has never been easy to do the good. But the good is exactly what the world needs at all times. What does doing the good look like then? It is made visible in our actions of hospitality and kindness. It is made manifest in our forgiveness and mercy toward one another. We see it in actions of service, when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, when we welcome the stranger and clothe the naked, when we comfort the sick and visit the imprisoned. (Matthew 25:34-46) And, yes, it can even become known when we respond to our enemies with love. In other words, we do the good when we imitate Christ in our daily lives.
Who are we to do good to? It is very clear here. We are to do it to all, without distinctions. Yes, the passage says, “especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” But why would the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to write that? Because, if we cannot even love those in our family, how can we ever find it within ourselves to love those who are not? We learn the good first from the family of believers. And by practicing the good within the family we learn both its difficulties and its benefits. It is this practice, over and over again, within the family, that helps us to develop the habit of doing the good. When we have developed the habit of doing the good in Jesus’ name, it will go with us wherever we go and will be shared with all we meet.
Lord, you are the good that we all desire. Help us to see the good more clearly, to love it more dearly, and to follow it more nearly in our daily lives. You are our strength in this. Walk with us and guide us always on the path of goodness. Make us strong in it for all people. We ask this in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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