When was the last funeral you went to? When was the last time you have been connected enough to a loss to contemplate it within your church community, with your co-workers, your family, or friends from across the street?
There is a phrase I have noticed crop up, either as a new response to loss or an old one I just never paid much attention to:
“They were such a good person!”
You don’t have to lose someone to hear this phrase, or use it for that matter. We throw it about when talking idly about people in our lives. I think we want a way to honor them, honor goodness in a world that holds far too little of it. It is important for us to honor one another, yes, but we also need to be careful not to honor people so much that we miss the God who is at work in their stories.
Resurrection reality: There are no good people.
Today, I want us to look through the very faint goodness found in people, to see the actual goodness of Resurrection.
It would be easy to read Tabitha’s story in Acts 9:32-42, and get lost in the goodness factor. Read through that segment of Scripture below and take note of anything you read that would maybe cause you to say, “Tabitha was a good person!” —
32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. 36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
Notice Acts 9:39 in particular. Can you see how one might get easily distracted by the women weeping and showing the garments Tabitha lovingly wove for them? When has someone made something for you by hand? When has someone noticed your need?
It is a beautiful gift to use our talents to care for others, to encourage others, but that isn’t the real goodness we find in the account. Read the passage above again, Acts 9:32-43. This time listen for the heartache, listen for words that celebrate community and recognize the loss of one of their own.
“…while she was with them.” (Acts 9:39b)
What a powerful phrase tacked onto the end of Acts 9:39. All these women standing around, sharing with Peter and sharing together the loss of a friend, a leader, a woman of influence in their lives. Her clothing wasn’t just clothing. God uses small things like clothing to remind these women, through Tabitha’s hands, that they are valued in Christ Jesus. That he wants warmth for them, lasting spiritual warmth, not only clothes-on-their-back warmth.
Tabitha might have made coats or everyday garments for the women to wear, and some of it may have been undergarments, which strikes me as deeply personal. I’m thinking of the Undies for Everyone campaign or the socks and underwear collected alongside backpacks for a back-to-school gift for someone. This is God at work in Tabitha. It’s always His Spirit at work when anyone asks, “Who needs underwear today?” We just aren’t capable of such goodness.
I know we want to believe in some basic goodness to humans, but I think when you look around enough, you’ll see the truth that goodness is only found in our God in us. Go back to Act 9:40-42 —
But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
Acts 9:42 tells the rest of the story — many believed signifies that real goodness points to the Lord, not to people.
Tabitha, Peter, those widows — they were God’s people, not good people.
Today, we can praise the Lord not for goodness in this world, but for the reality of Christ’s Resurrection lived out in us as we walk along each of our paths.
God’s people, bringing His goodness, His grace, and His glory…one pair of underwear, one hug, one listening ear at a time.
In the comments share with us one story of someone living the resurrected life and making yours a little brighter.
We may not be good people, but we are God’s people….in this life together.
Where do you see God’s Resurrection goodness shining through in tangible ways?