Monday, April 21, 2014

The Greatest Goodwill

I said I'd have a post for Easter, and... well, it's still Easter in Hawaii, so here it is.

Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (If Her Flag Breaks) is far from being one of my favorites of the new Spring 2014 season of anime, but it's a fun show with lots of crazy characters that also does some more serious moments rather well. This short post will be about episode 2, in which a number of people from school help out the male lead, Souta, to refurbish his run-down dormitory. Amidst all the insanity, the following line is said by the school's elder to Souta:

(As for why the "elder" looks like a 7-year-old girl: who knows?)
"You don't return goodwill with goodwill. You keep it in your heart. It will grow inside you, and change you, and then one day you'll grow into a person that can have goodwill towards others."
These are surprisingly fitting words for Easter, when Christians celebrate the ultimate display of goodwill, namely that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, ESV). As sinners, we deserve the full punishment of death, and yet, without asking anything from us in return, Christ (who lived a sinless life) died in our place. And then, he rose from the dead, displaying his power over death and the promise that, for those that belong to Him, he will overcome death for us so that we can be with Him for all of eternity. This act of goodwill is so extraordinary, it makes even the biggest donation one could make to a donation center look like pocket change.

So, for Christians, what do we do in the face of this goodwill? Well, we do not try to return it with our own goodwill--that is, trying to do good works to somehow "pay back" God for what He gave us. After all, what God gave us is far beyond anything of earthly value; we could have all the lifetimes left in the world and still would not even come close to being able to pay back what Jesus paid for us. Furthermore, this kind of "must do good things to pay God back" attitude will lead to a legalistic lifestyle where we base God's approval of us on what we are doing for him, instead of how much He already loves us and accepts us as we are--and the former will not lead to anywhere good.

Instead, we are to keep that goodwill in our hearts, meditate in it, and abide in it, so that it changes us to become more like Jesus Christ himself. Whereas before accepting Christ, our ability to have goodwill toward others is rather limited by our sinfulness, with the goodwill of Christ's love for us, our own capacity for goodwill expands greatly, and the result is that we become genuinely loving people to a world that desperately needs that love.

Through all of this, it helps a lot that this goodwill that we are taking into our hearts is not some kind of inanimate thing that's supposed to somehow catalyze our hearts into changing. The "goodwill" that we take into our hearts upon accepting Christ is a living spirit, and what's more, it is the very spirit of God. Christians frequently call this living goodwill the Holy Spirit, and he is every bit as much God as God the Father is. We are not alone in trying to change our hearts; God Himself will work through that process with us, and the Holy Spirit plays a large role in this by working from within to allow us to overcome our sinful tendencies.

Finally, it is important to note that the process of having the living goodwill of the Holy Spirit change our hearts is not one where we just passively sit back and let that spirit do all the work. We will have to do some things to help bring about that change, and some of those things we have to do, we will not particularly want to do. However, this is ultimately different from the legalism I mentioned earlier, in that our motivation for doing these things is different: rather than doing good things because we feel we have to pay God back to get His approval, we are doing it because we desire to be more like God--because we want to be people that can have goodwill toward others.

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