Faith: The good, the bad and the ugly
Learning about Jesus from a Clint Eastwood movie
Any fan of Clint Eastwood will recall the spaghetti western, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," where three actors played unique parts - Clint, the good; Lee Van Cleef, the bad; and Eli Wallach, the ugly.
The good supposedly depicted a man with high moral character; the bad, the evil nature of man; and the ugly, what that nature looks like.
So with a bit of license I am going to apply these three to Jesus, ourselves and our world. Jesus, of course, being the good; we, the bad; and the ugly, what our nature has done and is doing to this world.
So let’s start with Jesus, who as part of the Holy Trinity created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, calling the creation “very good."
It was perfect, without sin; there was nothing ugly about it; and above all, they created man wonderfully and marvelously in their spiritual image.
For this reason, St. Paul writes of how God gave man the ability to see His good in the creation: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 KJV)
Thus, whatever is beautiful and good in this world, man is to see as God’s good while at the same time seeing His creative power and majesty in it. Jesus in fact clarifies this truth regarding Himself, the Father and the Holy Spirit, “there is none good but one, that is, God …” (Matthew 19:17 KJV)
So there we have it. God tells us He is the only good in the universe. He is the only pure Spirit; the only truly moral being, which means that what is good cannot be based on anything less than what He reveals as good through His Word since none of us are good.
Now the hard part - we are the bad! From Adam and Eve’s fall, we have brought all that is “bad” into the world on account of our sin.
St. Paul puts it bluntly: “ All men have turned away from God; they have all gone wrong; no one does what is good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12 TEV)
There is no good in us, says God, even though many think there is. So if you remember the character of the bad, he was a manipulator, thief, murderer, etc. His character was meant to reveal how our sinful nature makes us capable of every sin imaginable.
Third, then, comes the ugly, which is the result of our sin. We are the ones who create all that is ugly in the midst of God’s good creation.
By our sin we bring all that is dark and death dealing, all that corrupts what God created to be “very good."
And let us not be mistaken, there is no way to cover up the ugly face of our sin. Every sin of man, his wars, vices, adulterous living, murderous thoughts and acts, his desire to corrupt manhood and womanhood, marriage and family and his blissful dismissal of all that God calls sin to justify his inner sinful desires are what make this world ugly, as St. Paul also writes:
“Because, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:21 KJV)
Sadly, then, mankind’s story in the end is reflected in the bad and ugly; and yet, there is hope because God’s good remains in this world.
The end of our story is not a pretty one until we consider that Jesus, God’s Good Son, came into this world to redeem us from our sin by dying on His Cross where He shed His holy, precious blood to pay the penalty we deserve for bringing all that is bad and ugly into His beautiful creation.
Consequently, the question that remains is: Where can we go to find God’s good in the midst of the ugliness we have brought into the world?
King David said look here, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” (Ps 27:4)
So the bottom line is this: If we are to know any good in this world, we need Jesus as our Savior. On the other hand, to stand apart and live by our own wits and devices, to believe we are good and can fix all that is bad in this world and our lives, will only end in ugly failure.
And that failure by definition will be to miss out on what good God has for us, our salvation and life everlasting with Jesus who is our “good” Savior.
Leslie Uhrinak is pastor at Mission of the Cross Lutheran Church in Crosslake.