Wednesday 1 September 2021

Peace to Men of Good Will

 "Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis."

So sang the heavenly host at the nativity of Jesus but what exactly is the good will of which they sing? Normally it is taken to mean men who wish their fellow men well, decent people, well-meaning people, something along those lines. But this can be extended to the secular world without any reduction of sense and so I think such an interpretation is wrong.

The one thing we have that God cannot coerce is our free will. Our time on Earth is precisely to test this will and see where it goes, to God or to self with self not simply meaning selfishness or egotism but not God, the human rather than the divine. Consequently, I believe that good will can be taken to mean correctly oriented will and that means will oriented to God. Men of good will are men who have handed over their being, in love not through fear or submission to authority, to God. Good and God are in this sense the same thing. Good will is the will of God. The good refers to spiritual good not the worldly variety which may or may not coincide with the former. The former will include the latter but it will go beyond it and it will certainly not prioritise it.

In Matthew 7:21 Jesus said this. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall. enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven." This is good will.


MagnusStout said...

I like this clear formulation. Reflecting upon that last verse, it is interesting that while a certain minimum amount of belief is necessary (ex: Jn. 3:16), Jesus wants us to do things--to "bear fruit." It seems a big spiritual challenge is avoiding (or moving past) legalistic and mechanistic belief formulations that displace (or reduce) acting in accordance with the Will of God. Put differently, there is something like two beliefs: of the mind and of the heart. The Pharisee-type focuses on the former (which tends to corrupt the religious impulse). The latter type belief, once connected to the Will of God through Christ, bears spiritual fruit that indictates true belief.

William Wildblood said...

The distinction between belief of the mind and the heart is well made and very important.