What Is A Good Man?


Word Magazine  November
1959  Page 7

 

WHAT
IS A GOOD MAN?

 

 

By
Father Michael Azkoul, Spring Valley, Ill.

 

  

 

Too many
people just assume that they know what a “good man” is. Because a man or an
organization (composed of “good men”) builds hospitals, schools, an orphanage,
an old-folks home, gives to medical research, to needy relatives, to charities,
or because he is pleasant, honest, kind, loyal, refined, cheerful, honorable, or
possesses those qualities which endears him to his neighbor, he is called
“good,” a “good man.” I repeat, people assume that a “good
man” is defined in this manner, but rarely do people critically examine the
assumption to discover whether a “good man” may actually be what he is generally
accepted to be.

 

The
thinking on the “good man” has simply ignored Christianity and naturally
Orthodoxy which is true Christianity. Christian experience, dogma, doctrine,
canon law, are casually excluded as something personal and having little to do
with the essential character of a “good man.”  
The Church is “what you make it” and very few people would include in
their definition of a “good man” his religion. Surely, he is expected to
have one and must live up to it, but as such, it is secondary in the analysis.
Of course, he must believe in God (whatever that means), but “each in his own
way and each in his own words.”

 

Now, can
these ideas about the “good man” be reconciled with the Christian
Truth? Is a “good man” (in the Christian and only sense) to be identified
with the common conception of him? Is a “good man,” as is ordinarily
believed, a man who does “good,” “good” as we usually think of it? Is
the belief, any belief in God, sufficient to make a man “good?” What is the
source of our opinions concerning the “good man?” Are they from God or men?
Are the ideas that most of us hold on this matter given by our environment or
are they the revelation of God? In any case, let us see what the Church has to
say about the “good man.”

 

The
Church teaches that three things are required for a man to be “good”: 1)
conversion 2) grace 3) faith. Conversion means repentance (literally from
the Greek, “change of mind”). Conversion necessarily requires faith, the
right faith, the faith given, revealed, disclosed in Christ Jesus. A man must be
converted to be “good.” He must be changed from a son of Adam to a son of
God by grace. He must be “born again” (JOHN
iii, 3), renewed, made a “new
creature” in Christ. The result is a new mentality, a “change of mind,” a
new attitude and approach to all things. This is accomplished primarily by the
Sacraments, especially, the Holy Eucharist, which give grace. 
“But God, Who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He
loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together
with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and made
us sit with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (EPH. ii, 4-6). It is grace, an energy of God, a gift, an
undeserved favor, divine and activating, which converts us, which makes us
“good.”

 

With a
converted being a man receives “illumination,” “light,” “sight,” so
that his faith in God has truth, direction, substance. The life of grace gives
Christian faith. That faith is the faith of the Church, the Body of Christ, the
Bride with Whom Christ is “one flesh.” This communion of Bride and
Bridegroom, this common life of Head and Body, this mystical and Divine
intimacy, gives rise to the experience of incomprehensible beauty. From it
issues Truth, a Truth which is set in words, words which can hardly hold their
meaning; and these words are Creed and canon and certitude. This is all obtained
in sacred community with others in Christ, in the Church, not
alone. Certainly, it must become a personal possession, but the acquisition
comes through the common life in the Body of Christ. It is this experience, this
knowledge, through conversion, through grace, through love and unity in the
Beloved, Christ Jesus, that creates a “good man.” A “good man” is the
result of what the Blessed Trinity and the Church has done. In other words, it
is impossible to be a good man without Jesus Christ.

 

One may
build hospitals, donate to charity, etc., be characterized by all those
“moral” qualities which the world calls “good,” but they are meaningless
and illusory without the Christian experience: conversion, grace, faith. The
very definition of a “good man” relies upon his relation to Jesus Christ.
Thus, as anti-Christian is utterly wicked and a true Orthodox only is fully a
“good man.” Conversion, grace, faith, that without which a man cannot be
“good,” no matter what the world thinks. In other terms, the more fully a
man is integrated into the life of the Church, the better man he is, and without
Jesus Christ and His Bride, goodness would be impossible. “For we ourselves
were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and
pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one
another; but when the goodness and loving kindness of God, our Savior, appeared,
He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of
His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,
which He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, so that we
might be justified by grace and become heirs of hope of eternal life. The saying
is “sure” (TIT. ii, 3-8).