If you are a follower of Christ, God intends for you to be a force for good in this world. He intends for you not only to rejoice in Jesus’s good work for you, but to be a force yourself for amazing good in your various spheres of life.
Now, to be clear, no one earns God’s favor by doing good. The call to be a force for good is not some man-centered, works-based gospel that decides to be good for God. On the contrary, being a force for good is God’s intended result for those who know that we are decidedly not good, but that God has been good to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The moment, however, that we begin to suggest that trusting in Jesus’s good work for us replaces or reduces the good works that he calls redeemed people to do, we have missed his heart and will for sinners. The Bible simply doesn’t talk like that.
Effective and Fruitful
“[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,” Titus 3:5 makes clear, “but according to his own mercy.” The apostle Paul keeps writing, though. “I want you to insist on these things,” he says three verses later, “so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works” (Titus 3:8). The saving work of Jesus for us doesn’t replace or reduce the good works he has planned for us (Ephesians 2:10); it actually inspires and unleashes them. The receiver becomes a reflector. The beneficiary becomes a benefit to others. When God saves people, he means for them to become a blessing to the world — or perhaps we could say, a force for good.
“When God saves people, he means for them to become a blessing to the world.”
Likewise, the apostle Peter addresses his second letter “to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). Notice that he then charges his fellow believers to “make every effort” to grow in Christlike qualities such as virtue, knowledge, self-control, brotherly affection, and love (2 Peter 1:5–7). “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing,” verse 8 says, “they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” To say it positively, Peter is calling all believers to be effective and fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ — or perhaps we could say, to be a force for good.
Warning for the Workless
What about the person who claims to be a Christian and is not increasing in these Christlike qualities and, as a result, not being a force for good?
If we are honest, some of us might encourage that believer, “Take heart — remember that Jesus has forgiven your sins.” While this may sound like wise and compassionate counsel at first, compare it with how Peter addresses the ineffective and unfruitful: “Whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:9). While we might leap to comfort those who aren’t devoting themselves to good works, Peter warns and exhorts them: Your life says you have forgotten that you are forgiven.
The good news of forgiveness and grace isn’t meant to become an excuse for a lack of good works. The gospel creates the opposite effect. The gracious work of Jesus for us, and his Spirit in us, produces growth in us that results in good through us. We were meant to be a force for good in this world.
All Things at All Times
To be a force for good isn’t merely to conjure up some occasional and random acts of kindness. On the contrary, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). You are meant to be a force for good for the rest of your life and in every area of your life.
Your mouth is meant to be a force for good, speaking only what builds others up and gives grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29). Your eyes are meant to be a force for good, looking not only to your own interests, but actively looking to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). Your feet are meant to be a force for good, bringing the good news of Jesus to those who have not heard (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15). Your ears are meant to be a force for good, morning by morning hearing the words of God (Isaiah 50:4). Your hands are meant to be a force for good, doing honest work so that you may have something to share with those in need (Ephesians 4:28). Your heart is meant to be a force for good, transforming you into a kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving person (Ephesians 4:32). Your mind is meant to be a force for good, thinking and considering how you can spur others on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Verse after verse casts a clear and compelling vision for Christians to be a force for good in the world into which God has sent us.
“You are meant to be a force for good for the rest of your life and in every area of your life.”
The Scripture is meant to equip us “for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Spiritual gifts are given “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). We are called to fight sin and “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). The wealthy are “to be rich in good works” (1 Timothy 6:18). We are called to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9–10). What was God doing from before the foundation of the world? He was planning for Jesus to do the good you couldn’t (Acts 2:23) and for you, by the Spirit, to do the good you can (Ephesians 2:10).
Only Avoiding Bad
When we become Christians, the Spirit of God convicts us of the many ways that we “do bad” — bad speaking, bad looking, bad thinking, bad acting, and bad living. Unfortunately, believers sometimes respond by focusing only on curbing these sins. As a result, they might define successful Christian living by their ability to avoid doing bad. They settle into a life in the middle — not a life dominated by doing bad, but a life focused on avoiding bad, a life content to do nothing.
Solomon, in his wisdom, declared that “whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys” (Proverbs 18:9). The servant who did nothing with the talent he was given was rebuked as “wicked and slothful” (Matthew 25:26). James declares that failing to do what is right is sin (James 4:17). In other words, doing nothing and doing bad are in the same family.
While I know of very few professing Christians who focus their life on doing bad, I know countless believers who define success by the avoidance of it. Friends, in Christ you were made for more than escaping sin.
One Force for Good
When I think of a biblical model for how faith in Jesus’s work for me results in fruitful works from me, I think of the Roman centurion in Luke 7:1–10.
The centurion had a servant who was about to die, and he believed Jesus could help. The elders of the Jews went to Jesus on the centurion’s behalf, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue” (Luke 7:4–5). This man has clearly been a force for good, and the people are praising him for it. Likewise, the world will marvel at our good works (Matthew 5:16), and our lives should give them plenty of reasons to do so.
Jesus agrees to go to his servant, and as they are approaching the man’s house, he sends his friends to say, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed” (Luke 7:6–7). When Jesus heard these words, “he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith’” (Luke 7:9). Jesus marveled at the centurion’s faith in what Jesus could do for him.
In one humble and faithful man, we get a beautiful vision for what it looks like to be a force for good in this world. His faith had unleashed him to do good, the kind of good that caught the attention of many lost people, the kind of good God calls us to be and do — good works that are rooted and fueled by our faith in what only Jesus can do for us.
So, if you are in Christ, you are meant to be a force for good, for the rest of your life, in every area of your life. And this vision isn’t opposed to the forgiveness you have found in Jesus; it’s the beautiful fulfillment of his grace in and through you.