White Hats and Black Hats…

Pastor John Bevere* and my wife have one thing in common:  a sincere appreciation for the life of the late Princess Diana.

He discusses our standard of good and how so much of what we see on television and the movies is devoted to good winning over evil:  “We all grew up watching the good guys go through tough challenges.  The odds were stacked against them and they faced inevitable defeat, often right up to the very end, but suddenly our heroes broke through to victory or justice.  We anticipated and applauded those finales.  We expected good to always win out because after all, God is on the side of good, right?” [Bevere, 3].

From our perspective, it seems easy.  I remember my favorite cowboy shows that I used to watch and the actors’ hats even helped to delineate good and bad.    The good guys wore the white hats and the bad guys wore the black hats.

But is it always that easy?

Pastor Bevere cites the story of the wealthy young leader in the Book of Mark, you know that model citizen who approaches Jesus expecting to be blessed.  He fell to his knees and addressed Jesus as “good teacher” and asked the question “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Why address Jesus as “good teacher?”  Well he probably expected to get a positive response.   He did not expect what he got: a correction from Jesus.   Jesus asked the young man why do you call me good?   No one is good except God.

Jesus then talks about the commandments, saying that he should not murder, commit adultery, steal, give false testimony or defraud.  One must honor their mother and father.

That is no big deal, the wealthy young leader had kept those commandments since he was a boy and he told Jesus that.

It is the next statement from Jesus that really draws a line.  “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ He said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

Every time I read this story in Mark, I have the same reaction.

The wealthy young leader became sad and walked away because he had great wealth.  He just could not meet the lofty standard that Jesus had just expressed.

I put myself in the story and I ask myself.  Could I sell everything I had and follow Jesus?   Really?

I don’t think I could.

Besides the wealthy young leader, Bevere uses the life of Princess Diana to make his point.  She lived a life that inspired many people. It is so fitting that he uses her as an example of a good person because this year marks the twentieth year since her death.  In our home, we have recently seen two documentaries on Diana plus a dramatization or two of her life on a streaming movie service.

Obviously she felt she should use her fame to help those less fortunate.  She visited with orphans; she advocated for aids research.  She tried to highlight the plight of the homeless and even walked across a minefield to dramatize the need for landmine removal in war torn countries.  She did not have to do all this charity work; she was a British royal and there were plenty of things she could have done that were less controversial.  In fact, she drew fire from the “Royal Family” because she was in the news too much, supporting causes not approved by the Queen.

Pastor Bevere mourned her death in 1997 like so many in the world did, but there was a slight difference.  He felt deep in his heart that his emotional reaction was not appropriate.   He was putting the label of “good” on Diana and maybe she was not as good as everyone thought.

Recent programs about her life testify to that fact.  She did not just use her celebrity to help the downtrodden.  She also used her celebrity to “thumb her nose” at the Royal Family.  Some will say that is nitpicking and not question what she was doing.   “It was all good” they might say.  Some would say that her love life was justified because she was so miserable in her marriage to Prince Charles, but before she was divorced, she was committing adultery and many in the news media covered it.

Pastor Bevere’s feeling from deep in his heart was God saying “She was not submitted to me.”

Did the wealthy young leader meet the world’s standard of good?  Without a doubt he did.

Did Diana meet the world’s standard of good?  Look at the pictures of the flower tributes at Buckingham Palace following her death.  I think those pictures speak for themselves.   She after all, was the “people’s princess.”

We have just started Pastor Bevere’s book “Good or God” but it is already obvious that he is talking about a standard of good that is more divine that our usual idea of good and bad.

Let’s return to a passage from Genesis that has already been cited in a previous post and I will italicize key words that maybe are taking on a new importance in light of Bevere’s premise: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” [Genesis 3:6].

When Adam and Eve took that bite from the apple they learned a hard lesson.

The world’s standard of good was certainly not good enough…

We live with the impact of that decision today…

Don’t we…

*Author of Good or God?

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