What is goodness if not the human struggle to be like God? Not in some demonic usurpation or mutiny among men bent on overthrowing our most loving and benevolent Creator, but to actually try with all that we have to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect. To speak the way Jesus has spoken. To love who Jesus loves. To recognize Jesus in our day to day in order to be recognized by our Lord as we pass from this world to the next.
You know, before the new and everlasting covenant in Jesus Christ, it was the Torah (the Law) given to Moses that lifted humanity out of the mire and the inconsistencies of the pagan world; but today the law will no longer do.
To quote the law to someone with the aim of bringing them to God, whether the Mosaic or canonical, or even what the philosophers have called the natural law, seems to shut down rather than open up a dialogue on what we were all meant to be. We have to understand that to many, trying to teach goodness through the law is like teaching them that music is only as profound as the notes on the page; never to be played. To try to teach the ethic and not the ethos, it is like we have been trying to convince the world of a brilliant theatrical performance by showing them the program with its lovely cast of performers.
No, no, goodness is caught when it is found in a person and not a checklist. When it reveals rather than reflects.
What I mean is, if you are trying to evangelize a person, and all they can see is someone who is just as good as they are; just as generous; just as patient; just as forgiving; if it seems like you have checked off the same boxes as they have; you will not win them over in the least.
But if they look at you and rather than reflect their own level of moral achievements; you reveal a greater generosity; a greater patience; a greater willingness to forgive; in short if you show them real, concrete examples of one striving to be like God, what happens?
It poses a question. And while the question in their minds may take many forms, essentially what they want to know is this: why are you so good?
So, If you are evangelizing someone and their language is goodness, your job is a straightforward one. Stop quoting the law, and begin surpassing the day to day sacrifices and social programs of the unbeliever. Our God can do better, it’s time to show them.
Patrick Sullivan is a Catholic Lay Evangelist, author and speaker. He has written two books, Dare to Be an Evangelist and Four Monks Walk in to a Pub and has many you-tube videos. Check out his website at http://evango.net