For the greater good

It sounds grand, right? That you’re sacrificing “for the greater good” by putting aside your own interests, rights, preferences, and even your life for the sake of others. And isn’t that what Jesus did too? – he gave up his life for the salvation of all humanity. 

So “for the greater good” has a nice Christian ring to it. Which must be very gratifying for Christians when seeing non-Christians picking up on it too, as we saw during the pandemic when people accepted the call to sacrifice for the sake of the vulnerable. There really is something noble about thinking beyond oneself for the welfare of others.

It can put Christians in a tricky spot, though, when “for the greater good” is used to justify non-Christian actions, or actions that clash with other Christian principles, like going to war for the greater good, which meant Christians having to kill, and even kill and maim fellow Christians too. It also meant killing those not involved in war, like children.

“For the greater good” has justified such actions, however, because “that’s the price we have to pay for the security and freedom of the majority. Some people have to die; that’s just how it is, chum.” 

And that same reasoning was used during the pandemic to put children at risk “for the sake of Grandma.” For many people, however, that was not good at all. To inject a child with a drug with unknown long term effects amounted to child abuse subject to criminal charges. There was a problem, then, defining what was good.” What was good to one person wasn’t good to another. Which really confused the issue, and perhaps for Christians too. 

But a similar situation arose in Romans 14:2. Some people, for instance, believed it was “good” before God to eat only vegetables, while others thought it was just fine eating “everything.” So whose “good” was the right good? Who held the higher moral ground? And did anyone have the right to virtue signal and gaslight the other? 

Well, according to verse 3, no one had such a right, because the person “who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the person who does not eat everything must not condemn the person who does, for God has accepted him.” If God can accept differing views, then who are we to take shots at each other (verse 4)?    

But what about Christians during the pandemic having differing views on vaccinations? Some Christians, for instance, thought it good to be vaccinated because it would enable them to keep their job and support their family – which God would want them to do, right? To them, therefore, that was “the greater good.” Other Christians, however, believed it was good in God’s sight to not be vaccinated to prevent increasing tyranny taking root. And that to them was just as much “the greater good” too. Same motives, but two very different views.  

So it’s interesting to see what happened in Romans 14 where similar motives but very different views also existed. And one point becomes encouragingly clear, that if a person’s focus in whatever he or she does (or doesn’t do) is on being acceptable to God – then “the Lord is able to make him stand,” verse 4.

And that’s good to know because one day “we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (verse 10), and “each of us will give an account of himself before God” (verse 12).

That could sound scary, but there’s no fear of God’s judgement if what we thought was “for the greater good” was based on what we believed was good and acceptable in God’s sight. Actually, it’s very encouraging, because “Blessed is the person who does not condemn himself by what he approves,” verse 22. If a person’s conscience is clear he has no fear or worries before God – and therefore no reason to feel belittled or guilty before other people either.  

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