In a way, the world is a great liar. It shows you it worships and admires money, but at the end of the day it doesn't. It says it adores fame and celebrity, but it doesn't, not really. The world admires, and wants to hold on to, and not lose, goodness. It admires virtue. At the end it gives its greatest tributes to generosity, honesty, courage, mercy, talents well used, talents that, brought into the world, make it better. That's what it really admires. That's what we talk about in eulogies, because that's what's important. We don't say, "The thing about Joe was he was rich." We say, if we can, "The thing about Joe was he took care of people."
Those lines reminded me of a sermon I preached Wednesday before last on a couple of 2008 high school graduates and goodness. Don't worry, I won't reproduce the whole sermon in this blog.
One graduate made such a scene at his commencement that he was arrested. He yelled curses and made obscene gestures from the stage. According to one report he took a swing at the principal instead of shaking hands with him. So this new diploma recipient had a mug shot made in his graduation gown to go along with his senior portrait. He was not a very good boy.
The other graduate is Adam DiPippo, the valedictorian of a small class of 20 students in Derry, New Hampshire. An article on his commencement speech says that DiPippo encouraged his classmates "to seek not self gratification but service to others.” Ultimately he urged them to "do good" explaining this call with these words: "I know that isn't grammatically correct, but I did it on purpose. I don't want you to do well. I want you all to do good."
One graduate was a very bad boy at his graduation and another exhorted his classmates to "do good." Less than a week later Tim Russert died way too early and he is roundly admired for his goodness. All of this reminded me of Ephesians 2:10: "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (TNIV).
We were created to do good works and, in the end, it is our goodness that will be admired more than anything else. Salvation is by grace through faith, of course (Eph. 2:8). We are not saved by good works, but we are saved to good works.
So let us do good.