This post comes to us from Nick Comiskey:

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea … how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil. (Acts 10:37-38)

In a year where countless Americans found themselves homebound and hungry for exercise (#Covid30), Adriene Mishler quickly became a faithful friend. More than 75 million people have warmed up/cooled down/zenned out by watching her “Yoga with Adriene” videos (this yogi writer included).

Last March she was driving around her home in Austin, TX, and someone sideswiped her car. She expected the driver to pull over. They didn’t. Adriene followed. A chase ensued.

“I was not going to chew them out,” she explained in a New York Times profile. Her hope was to “have a conversation with that person about the importance of goodness and accountability at a time of global and local turbulence.”

Kudos to Adriene for her desire to be of service, but “a conversation about the importance of goodness” is the absolute last thing I want to have in a time of upheaval. Goodness is important (obviously), and I could do a lot more of it. But is that conversation going to get me there? And if not, what will point me to it?

Goodness is an extraordinarily versatile word. Among other things, it suggests behavior, enjoyment, competence (Adriene is good at teaching yoga), and favor (give her YouTube channel a good review). Goodness means something more specific in the New Testament. One scholar writes: “It is more than character; it is character energized, expressing itself in active good.” Because goodness is active, words or deeds not typically associated with it can be counted as such. Paul writes in Romans 15:14: “I am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and able to admonish one another.” By linking goodness and admonishment, Paul seems to suggest that while the latter may not be pleasant (see vehicular example above), it can be what loving wisdom calls for in a particular situation.

Adriene, in other words, may have been onto something. Admonishment can be a reflection of goodness. That light, however, shines far brighter somewhere else.

On this, the 11th day of Christmas, the holiday continues as a celebration of Goodness in human form. Jesus is good not simply because he admonishes, but because he liberates — “he sets free all who are under the power of the devil.” And while words of warning have their place, that same devil invariably turns admonishment into accusation. Jesus speaks a better word. His grace has the singular capacity to birth goodness in us.

Adriene Mishler eventually tracked down the person who hit her car. Or so she thought. She actually followed someone driving a similar vehicle into a thrift store parking lot. Aside from showing just how dicey ill-timed admonishment can be, and that we might be better served by leaving such vengeance to the Lord (Rom 12:9), the mistaken end to her story reminds us of everything that is right about our own. For aren’t we all guilty of fleeing the scene in one way or another?

Thanks be to the goodness of God made known in Jesus, who visited our world so that we might be free. He offered himself for our sins, rescuing us from the evil side-swiping of this age, and giving us a share in his bottomless gladness. Merry Christmas (for one more day, at least)!