Do you have a favourite TV show that you set your DVR for every week? I do. Once Upon A Time is a cleverly written, twisted version of all the fairy tales we grew up reading. What I really like is the complexity of the characters. There are the delicious villains, the Evil Queen and Captain Hook, who struggle between the evil that so naturally claims them and the strengthening pull to do good. There is that good girl, Snow White, who is a true do-gooder if there ever was one, except in one episode, even she revealed her vulnerability to a much darker side. It brought into speculation that there are no real good or bad people. Everyone one of us has a capacity for light or dark. Sometimes we confuse who really are good and bad people. Appearances are deceiving.
It says in the bible, that God looks at the heart, while people look at appearances. (1 Sam 16:7) Reading through the New Testament, that was Jesus’ MO. Look at how many, what we would call “bad girls”, he associated with. His track record for sticking with only the “good girls” is pretty sketchy. The Samaritan woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, the prostitute who washed his feet, to name a few. (I can’t wait someday to see who else would be on that list!)
Whatever they had done, good or bad, He saw beyond it. His gaze pierced their hearts, seeing their deeds, their attitudes, their thoughts for what they were. He brought them into the light. He changed them. Because any encounter with Jesus is going to transform you. It will never leave you the same. It’s up to you how you will respond. Changed like Peter, who knew the Christ and confessed he was a sinful man. Or like the rich young ruler, who couldn’t put Jesus first in his life and probably lived the rest of days like someone was missing. The women Jesus associated with, chose Him. They chose to live in the light. To be the good they were created to be.
But what happens with the preverbal “good girl”? You know the kind. You may be one. I’m fascinated with this idea. I got thinking about this after hearing a sermon on the woman who washed Jesus’ feet at the home of Simon, a religious leader. The religious elite in Jesus’ time, would have thought themselves “good people”. So would the rest of the community. They were supposed to lead the people in spiritual matters.
Maybe they were considered “good boys” in their youth, by their parents. Why? What differentiated them? They followed all the rules. They did good deeds. Avoided scandal. Isn’t that how we classify “good boys and girls”? “Jenny is such a good girl.” “I can always count on Joey.” Isn’t that what we say about our kids? (Usually our first borns.) In our minds we have classified the “good” from the what? Or rather who? Not so good? Bad? Is this even right?
We classify the “good” as those who follow the rules and do good things. The ones we can count on. In other words, they don’t get into trouble. Is this fair? I don’t think so. It puts labels on everyone. It pits the “good ones” against who? Younger children who can’t do what the older ones can? Who have different temperaments? Does this make them bad? I don’t think so. It makes them different but not bad. We need to change our thinking as parents. And our, mostly innocent, labeling. I’m not just talking about children either. It’s done all the time with young and old.
Typecasting people does a couple of things I think we’d rather avoid. Labeling some people “good” puts a whole heaping of responsibility on them they don’t want or deserve. It’s time we let everyone off the hook. Don’t always expect your “good girl or boy” to be good. It’s unrealistic. From the “good boy or girl” viewpoint, it gets old really fast. And don’t expect less of your “bad” girl or boy because they challenge you or are different from you (especially if you grew up being a good boy or girl!). Let them be kids. Let them come into their own personalities, not ones we’ve forced them into.
I think that like the religious elite, promoting a “good” girl or boy idea cultivates an attitude of arrogance, pride and perfectionism. Like Simon, we think because we follow the rules and don’t do bad things, we’re better than everyone else. We don’t do this or that. We’re not like so and so. It’s a trap we fall into. We’re ensnared into thinking we aren’t so bad. We’re pretty “good.” The truth of the matter: our hearts are black. Our attitudes aren’t much better and our thought life could use an overhauling. People might not see it…yet. It might be well hidden but it’s only a matter of time. Light always reveals what’s hidden in the dark. It only sits on the inside for a while but eventually it starts to seep out, like a deep dark goo that you see in movies. An occasional flare of temper that becomes more of a constant. Instead of one glass of wine, two becomes the norm. A sarcastic tongue. A haughty attitude that resists constructive criticism or a convicting of the heart.
Don’t be fooled by your own “goodness” like Simon, who didn’t’ wash Jesus’ feet or kiss him in welcome. Huge insults in the day. Why did Simon neglect his hosting duties? It certainly wasn’t because he was ignorant of the customs. I think he hadn’t decided what to do with Jesus and he wanted Jesus to prove His worth. Simon didn’t come at this with a humble attitude. He was arrogant about it. He thought he was better than the girl and Jesus. If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him. Luke 7:39 The Message Those were Simon’s thoughts.
The real irony is that the supposed “bad girl” prostitute schooled the supposed “good boy” Simon, in the true definition of goodness. She walked away forgiven and full of peace. Simon stood empty, by his own choice. It is to be hoped that at some point he got past his pride and decided what he needed to do with this Jesus. Only then would he truly understand what true goodness was all about. Grace, gratitude, love, peace and joy…