God isn’t just good (adjective), He’s good (noun) – in the same way that God isn’t loving, God is love! When we say the phrase ‘Oh my goodness!’, or ‘There’s still good in him’ to describe a wayward friend or child, I bet God’s ears are burning.
When I was a kid, the grace we said before meals went like this: ‘God is great, God is good, let us thank him for the food. Amen.’ And as a kid, I wondered from time to time if it wasn’t redundant. “Isn’t good contained inside great?” I reasoned.
We often use the word that way, don’t we? ‘Have a great day, Katie,’ I say to my daughter most mornings. ‘That was a great meal,’ Karen often says to me when I’ve made dinner (and almost half of the time, she’s being honest, not generous!) In these instances, we mean ‘good’, not ‘great’ and it’s well understood.
But if we can have a Great Depression; if there can be a Great Fire that wipes out half a city, or a Great Flood that destroys everything except on Earth the inhabitants of one boat, great doesn’t necessarily mean good.
“I think we must expect great things from you, Mr. Potter,” wandmonger Garrick Ollivander tells the title character in the first Harry Potter book. “After all, He-Who-Must- Not-Be-Named did great things — terrible, yes, but great.”
Yesterday, we said God is great. Today we say God is good, and there is a difference.
A great God makes His Creation beautiful and functional and orderly and diverse. A good God uses love as the glue that holds it all together.
A great God gives us free will, but a good God makes sure we’re not held hostage for eternity by the dumb things we do with that free will.
A great God lives in majestic cathedrals and grand temples. A good God dwells in dowdy, run-down chapels; in shanties and crack houses, and in the hearts of wretched sinners who invite Him in.
A great God is Lord. A good God is Father.
A great God is Master. A good God is Servant.
A great God is demanding. A good God is forgiving.
Aren’t you glad we have a good God?
Peace be with you.