Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Sometimes People are Good.

by jacobjuncker

This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, September 13, 2015.

Reading: Romans 7:15-24

Good morning, neighbor.

How are you this morning?

I wonder if you’ve ever done anything wrong. Or, have you done anything to get in trouble?

Sometimes we do things when we’re mad or sad or afraid that we know are not right: sometimes we do things that are bad. But, we’re not bad all the time are we?

Sometimes people are good
And they do just what they should.
But the very same people who are good sometimes
Are the very same people who are bad sometimes.
It’s funny, but it’s true.
It’s the same, isn’t it for me…
Isn’t it the same for you?

~“Sometimes People are Good, written by Fred Rogers

The bad things that people do: that’s not what God made them to do. Sometimes…sometimes people are good. In the beginning, God created us to care for the earth and for one another; and God said we were good.

Sometimes we do things we shouldn’t, but the very same people who are bad sometimes are the very same people who are good sometimes. It’s funny, but its true. It’s the same, isn’t it for me… Isn’t it the same for you?

I want you to know that even though we sometimes do things that are wrong, God made us good, to do good for our families, our friends, and the world.

Let’s pray.

God, you created us good, but sometimes we do things that are bad. Help us to trust you and do good. In Jesus name we pray, amen.

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I’ve been struggling with a question this week: is there such a thing as a bad person? Most certainly there are people who have perpetrated acts that are bad, acts that we might even describe as evil; but, are there really bad people. Perhaps, you’re already thinking of some: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Osama Bin Laden, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, and Sadam Hussein. These people have done great harm in this world; but, are they inherently bad? Could it be that Hitler really was a good guy, he just didn’t live into God’s first commandment to care for and build up the earth and all that’s in it?  Having struggled all week, I’ve come to the conclusion, at least for now (and you’re free to disagree), that, well…

I’m not convinced that there are any bad people in this world: there are only people who fail to do good.

There are people who do really bad things. There are people who hurt others: who build themselves up at the expense of others’ security and well-being. There are people who do some really bad things; but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad.

Now, I want to be really careful here. I’m not trying to suggest that we “hate the sin and love the sinner.” That’s not what I’m trying to get across. I don’t know that it’s possible to really make that distinction. I don’t know that we can so easily despise what people do without despising the person who does it. This morning, I’m not suggesting that we hate the sin and love the sinner. I am suggesting that we refuse to let the bad things people do to define who they are and who God created them to be. Don’t let the things people do keep you from seeing the Godly image people were created in and the good they were created to do.

I’m not convinced that there are any bad people in this world: there are only people who fail to do good.

In our reading for today, Paul struggles with his inclination to do things he doesn’t want to do. He struggles with the fact that he wants to do good, but so often does the opposite. It’s a struggle we all face. When we strive to do good, the opportunity to do evil is always right there with us. But, the opportunity to do evil—and whether we take it or not—does not define who we are, it makes us human. We each have the opportunity to do good and if we choose it, evil will always be right there.

I’m convinced that there aren’t any bad people in this world: there are only people who fail to do good. 

So we need to stop looking at people based upon what they’ve done. When Jesus looked into the eyes of the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, the tax collector, the prostitute, the murderer and the thief he didn’t see the choices they’d made, he saw the good in which they were created and the good they might work in the world It’s why he rarely (if ever) condemned them, but instead commanded them to “go and sin no more.” Jesus knew that we weren’t created bad, by the grace of God we have been created good to work good in this world; sometimes we just need a little bit of reminding.

I’m convinced that there aren’t any bad people in this world. In fact, I don’t think evil alone has any power. Evil is given power when we fail to do that which is good. Evil is powerful when people fail to see the goodness in others and work toward good in the world. That goodness was imbued upon us from the very beginning when God saw all that God had created and called it good.

Therefore, “let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, New Revised Standard Version). “For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that…we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, NRSV).

Don’t see people for the problems they create or the decisions they have made. See people as people, created in the image of God: created good to work good in the world.

I’m convinced that there aren’t any bad people in this world, cause sometimes people are good; and, in those moments we’re living the way God intended our good-selves to live.

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