Friday, March 25, 2005

Good or Bad

"I don't get it," he said. The five year-old peered through strands of brown hair as he looked up at me. His nose was wrinkled and the look in his eyes revealed the confusion in my mind. "If it's the day Jesus died, why do they call it Good Friday?"

It was an understandable question. People with greater intellects that your average five year-old have struggled with the idea. If you saw The Passion of the Christ you saw a toned-down version of what really happened on that Friday. How could something that horrific and brutal be construed as "good" when it clearly looked the opposite?

The idea of good and bad is usually a pretty elementary concept. A five-year old can usually tell you if they have been good. My three year-old daughter always makes sure that I know as soon as I get home that she has indeed been a good girl. I'm not sure she'd tell me if she was bad, but I'm fairly sure she would know. But as simple as it should be to tell good from bad, sometimes we have trouble discerning the difference. Society doesn't help things. Remember around twenty years ago when "bad" was slang for "good"? When someone told me I was a "bad dancer" I had to stop and wonder if that was an insult or not. (It usually was. Check that. It always was!) Of course anymore if someone uses the word "bad" to mean "good, he's likely to be seen as being as "hip" as if he'd just uttered the word "groovy."

Many have claimed that nothing is all good or all bad but merely somewhere between the two extremes. When agnostic-turned-theologian C. S. Lewis was considering the idea of God, he had to deal with the idea of "good." It was easy to come up with something which was pure evil -- like a criminal taking a machette and hacking off the arm of a child. But what Lewis discovered was that he could not be able to recognize evil if he had no idea of what "good" is. He said that he would not be able to recognize a crooked line if he had no idea what a straight line looked like. So the presence of evil is in itself a testament to the existence of good.

But why "Good" Friday? Because as gruesome as the crucifixion was, it was necessary. Without the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, the punishment for our sins would still be ours to bear. That means there's no way we end up in heaven because we can't pay our bill. The other obvious good from Good Friday is that without the crucifixion there could be no resurrection. And without the resurrection, as Paul put it, eat, drink and be merry because life has no meaning.

But with the cross, we have had the way cleared to be welcomed into God's family forever -- if we accept Him on His terms. And with the cross, we have the resurrection so that we know that Jesus was and is Who He said He was, and we have the guarantee that death is not the end for us.

It's amazing that God used something so horrible to do something so good. There are times when I stop and wonder why God lets so much evil exist on this earth. Then I remember that if God only allowed "good" then I'd be history in a heartbeat. But beyond that, God can use the bad that happens and turn it to good. He did it for Joseph when he was sold into slavery, but God was simply moving him to Egypt where he'd soon be an important leader. God has accomplished good with some of the darkest days of my life. I still don't know all the good that God was able to do because my son died. But I've seen the shadows of a few of the good things, and I know there were more.

"Bad" does not rule the day when God can make it for our good. Especially when a day so dark that it featured earthquakes and a pitch-black afternoon could actually be so incredible as to be remembered as Good Friday.

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