Be Good

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY

For most families I suppose there is that three-word phrase uttered when parents part ways with their children, “I love you.” But for the Hannons two words sufficed. “Be good,” my parents would say just about any time they dropped us off or saw us walk out the door for something. They hung in the air as a warning with two other unspoken words in tow: Or else. Being good was imperative in the Hannon house (and sometimes we were, and other times we weren’t), but it was always the expectation. Anyone else have parents like that?
I can think of at least one other guy. He’s the guy who races up to Jesus in the gospel of Mark (chapter 10) and asks, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds, “You know the commandments.” To which the man replies, “I’ve kept them since my youth.” This guy was really good at being good. He honored his parents. He didn’t murder or steal or commit adultery or covet. He kept those commandments since he was a kid, and if anything was good enough to inherit eternal life, surely that was it. Unless, of course, inheriting eternal life isn’t about being good enough.
Jesus looked at the man and loved him. He said, “You lack only one thing: Go, sell what you have and give the money to the poor, and then come and follow me.” But when the man heard it he was shocked and grieved for he had a lot of stuff.
Sometimes when we think about heaven, we make God out to be our cosmic parent who’s booting us out of the womb with the instruction/warning, “Be good or else.” But if that were all God was after, the man in the gospel reading I referenced before might have had a happier ending. No, God desires more from us than our best behavior. God desires faithfulness. God desires sacrifice.
The rich man was really good at keeping the commandments—at least the ones Jesus mentioned (commandments 5-10)—but what about the other ones? The FIRST ones? You know, the ones about having no other gods and saving time each week for rest and renewal in Him? The man didn’t answer Jesus about those, but I think we got his answer when he walked away. It is a reminder that it doesn’t matter how well behaved we are, as long as we have false idols where we continue to place our trust and fear.
The answer to “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” involves far more than good behavior. It involves faithfulness—love and trusting God. And it involves sacrifice—being willing to cut out the stuff that separates us from Him. But even more than that, it involves grace. My parents told us to be good. We weren’t. They loved us nonetheless. And if faithfulness sounds daunting to you, know that you are in good company. When his disciples first heard Jesus say it they said, “Jesus, no one can do that.” But Jesus said, “You’re right. You can’t. But God can.” May it be with us. May the same grace that washes you of your sin and claims you as God’s child, strengthen you to live like it.

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

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Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.