The story is told of a soldier who had been causing problems within Alexander the Great’s army. Alexander had heard from his lead commanders that a particular soldier had been reckless, undisciplined, and disrespectful to his superiors. With a lull in the day’s fighting, Alexander summoned the soldier before him to account for his insubordination. As the soldier entered the grand room and stood before the throne of the Emperor, nervousness overcame him for he knew why he was there. As he stood silently, Alexander studied him for a moment, looking down and inquiring, Alexander asked him, “What is your name?” The soldier in faltering voice stated, “Alexander my Emperor.” Instantaneously Alexander the Great jumped up from his seat and in a powerful voice yelled, “What did you say your name is?” A second time the soldier taken back replied, “Alexander.” The emperor in a fit of rage said, NO! MY NAME IS ALEXANDER, no man acts this way and does it with my name!” With eyes burning into the soul of the soldier, He issued a warning, “Change your actions or change your name, you will not betray my name!”
Proverbs 10:1 says, “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son (brings) grief to his mother.” As the cameras rolled in Ferguson, Missouri this past week we were given a storyline of a kind and gentle young man gunned down in his prime. A young man who was anxious to attend college and honor his family with his lofty goals. He was labeled a good kid, a gentle soul. The caveat was he would have accomplished all this except for one key event; a ruthless police officer for no reason took his life. Yet days later after the tear gas had cleared we saw a video of this “gentle giant” seeming to strong arm a store owner out of a box of cigars without paying for them. We also learn from a dozen witnesses the slain man unprovoked broke an officers eye socket moments before he lost his life. When the truth is fully released, will this slain young man get to keep his tag of being “good”?
As a society, what defines good? Is it being an Eagle Scout, walking old ladies across the street, is it visiting sick children in the hospital to bring them teddy bears, regular church attendance, never using drugs, what makes someone good? This week while dining in a restaurant, my wife and I saw two parents let their child scream and cry with nary a correction. The child’s actions went on interminably the full length of our breakfast. I wonder if I asked these parents if their child was a good boy they would answer emphatically, “yes!” But I bet if I walked around the restaurant and posed that same question to the rest of the patrons, their answers would be the polar opposite of the clueless parents.
I can recount famous politicians and educators with moral lapses, pastors and pundits with major character flaws, Hollywood stars who’ve betrayed their spouses, parents who never disciplined their children and begat selfish brats, yet despite all these transgressions, society allows them to keep their monikers of being “good.” I say it’s time we change.
Today, good needs to be defined by God’s yardstick. Micah 6:8 says, “He has showed you, O man what is good. And what does the Lord require? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Until I see that lived out in an individual, I’m withholding my label of good!