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Seeking the Good

Sometimes, when reflecting on what to write, articles like these seem to write themselves. They flow from my mind and heart from a deep wellspring that has faithfully delivered refreshment as long as I have been at it. There are other times when the words don’t come quickly or easily. It’s not that the soil is necessarily dry. It’s rather that in recent weeks, storms have delivered more than my soil can handle, and I’m trying to cope with spiritual flash floods.

And the rains keep coming.

As I write these words, we have experienced a catastrophic series of national tragedies in a week and a half: a mass shooting at a Top’s grocery store in Buffalo, NY; another mass shooting at a Taiwanese congregation’s lunch at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, CA; and most recently at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. In times of such great grief, and as politics and influencers scramble to have a say, I wonder what to offer that can bring to deliver both reassurance and challenge to us as Christians earnestly seeking to respond rightly to such times.

In addition, and closer to our spiritual home, the results of an independent investigation commissioned by the messengers of the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention were released on May 22. The extensive report, known as the Guidepost report, confirms and expands public understanding of journalistic revelations from the past few years. The report details the SBC’s willful negligence and a decades-long coverup in the face of hundreds of credible reports of sexual abuse by ministers, missionaries, seminary professors and even elected leadership at the highest levels. Though the church has prioritized our being “Yates Baptists” first, we cannot dodge the demands of news like this. The church has long allowed individuals to choose how to identify with various Baptist conventions in our orbit, including the SBC. Now we must own this part of our corporate identity. I want you first to be informed, and I want us to wrestle with what it calls out of us.

There remains a war in Ukraine, skyrocketing inflation at home, COVID cases are on the rise, and numerous among us are fighting battles and burdens that in any season would be enough.

As I look to the summer, I have prayed about where to place our collective heads and hearts in worship, I’ve wondered what theme or idea could speak into our lives at times like this. As I did, I remembered a book I read last fall that spoke deeply to me and is informing the way I want us to be thinking, praying and working this summer. In A Church Called Tov, Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer propose a roadmap to a better way by unpacking the fullness of the little Hebrew word “tov,” (pronounced “tōv”) which is most often translated “good.”

In English, we hear the word “good” and understand it only as an intermediate step, something you pass through on to something like “great.” This is not so in the Biblical text. After all, this is the word God describes the majesty of God’s creation as God looks upon it all. As McKnight writes, “Very good! Very well done! Perfect! A masterpiece! All these English terms and more are found in that beautiful word Tov.”

Of course, a word like “good” can be awfully subjective. The belief that something is good can change from person to person, whether you’re talking about green beans, musical styles or political candidates. We need to park on that little word awhile to listen to the way God speaks in Scripture about what “goodness” is all about. Then we might hear assurances from the prophet Amos for all they have to say: “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.” (Amos 5:14-15)

As I study and reflect on what I’m learning, I find that embedded in this word is a great deal that can direct our lives and shape them. Through lives shaped by striving for the good, we can take part in shaping the culture of our church and transform the church’s impact on the world. All by seeking the good.

That is my prayer.

Grace & Peace,

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