If you were to do a casual man-on-the-street style interview and ask, “What does the Bible say we should be,” without a doubt the most frequent and common answer would follow something like this: “Well, I think the Bible says that people should be good.”
This is an example of how “keeping it simple” fails in delivering on something that deserves more detail. To the scripturally savvy an over-simplification just, well, tastes flat, especially when one’s palate expects the rich complexities common to the Word of God. For example, anyone familiar with its content might object that before we can be “good,” the Bible calls us to “be forgiven.” And that’s only one particular.
Let’s consider some more – possibly unexpected – ways the Bible calls us “to be” (…as incomplete as this sample may be):
Be Courageous. In the front half of the first chapter of the Book of Joshua, God instructs the new leader no fewer than four times to not be discouraged, but to be strong and very courageous. A response by the people of God rounds out this introduction as they commit to follow Joshua’s lead. However, they place one clear stipulation upon Moses’ replacement: “Only be strong and courageous!” (cf. Joshua 1:18).
Some readers may be surprised that courage is so prevalent a theme in God’s written desires for his people, but such is his heart. God calls us out from the discouragement, the despondency, the despair, and the depression that is so common to the broken and sinful condition of this world.
Be Encourageous. Okay, so that is a made-up word, at least in English, but how can we better describe this clear and repetitive appeal from God: That our encouragement in Christ is of such great worth we are empowered to be continually encourage-full of others. The Apostle Paul embodied this nature in every circumstance, even in his own imprisonments and amidst physical torture. He elevated the value of Christ in every person. This is why he would write such emphatic wishes: “Perhaps, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other” (Romans 15:32).
Be Present. Jesus instructed his disciples, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.” This was no mere suggestion, as he added, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:4, 11). He immediately follows this appeal with the historically impactful command to love one another.
Christians themselves tend to overlook this essential dynamic: We’re meant to be present! Unfortunately, many forfeit a personal and full faith for the privacy of religious opinion and an attitude that concedes to the worldly mindset, “I’ll do what I want.” We should not segregate our lives from Christian belief. We must always, and in all ways, be in Christ as we are with and for each other.
Be Ready. In 1 Peter 3:15 we are commanded, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” This speaks to our loving readiness for the sake of others, but there is also our readiness for Jesus, as well as readily living every day for Christ.
As for his coming again, the Judgement Day is real. Jesus instructs us to live our lives in such a way that we may be always ready: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but the Father alone…Therefore, stay alert!” (Matthew 24:36, 42a).
As for our meeting every day with the purposes of God in mind, Paul adds among other instruction, “and shod your feet with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).
Be Courageous. I know this is a repeat, but the Bible deliberately repeats this theme… over and over. In his own way, Paul paints the picture of Christian readiness and courage: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” And, as if that were not clear enough, he immediately follows with the obvious imperative: “Therefore, stand firm!” (Ephesians 6:13-14).
So, as you might see, in all that the Bible teaches we learn that to “be good” – at least within the divine mindset – means more than just some simplistic moralism. Rather, God’s Word is more complex and delightfully unexpected.