You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. Psalm 119:68 (NIV)
We are familiar with the scenario on TV and in the movies. The suspect is brought in for interrogation. They are placed in the interview room and then the role play begins. In walks “Bad Cop”. He’s aggressive, anti-social, might be violent (depending on the rating of the show) assuming the suspect is guilty, it’s just a matter of getting him to admit it. Then, just as “Bad Cop” is up in the suspect’s face screaming bile and spittle, in walks “Good Cop”. “Good Cop” adopts an advocate stance, tells “Bad Cop” to calm down and not get too carried away. When “Bad Cop” gives up in disgust and leaves the room, “Good Cop” apologises for his partner’s behaviour and mood. He offers the suspect a coffee or tea and adopts a calm and sympathetic demeanor. All of this is a play to get the suspect to confess to the “Good Cop” either out of fear of being brutalised by “Bad Cop” or from a false pretense that the “Good Cop” really does like them and will help them out if they confess their guilt. This makes for a predictable formula in crime show drama, yet the producers keep coming up with the same routine and the audience keeps watching and the sponsors keep spending advertising dollars and so the stereo-type is perpetuated.
Sometimes Parents unwittingly take on the roles of “Good Cop Bad Cop”. When the child is with Mum all day and has been “less than well behaved” 🙂 Mum does the correction and discipline which forces her into “Bad Cop” mode. Dad walks in, tired after a long day, (selfishly) not wanting to deal with behavioral problems, takes on the “Good Cop” role, and plays with the kids. This leads to all sorts of difficulties in the marriage as well as wrongly affecting the child’s concept of the relationship between their mother and father.
Neither the stereo-type TV police officers, nor the unbalanced parents provide us with a view of their roles as God would intend. Yet when we think about God we still have a tendency to adopt a dichotomy that wrongly divides the person of God in way not reflected in scripture. e.g. Only a few months ago, I heard a evangelical pastor say that “God isn’t into rules anymore … the Old Testament has a negative connotation of God and the New Testament has a fresh understanding of what God really wants from us”. This is appalling! The God of the Old Testament is not the “Bad Cop” and Jesus the “Good Cop”. When we perpetuate this error, is it any wonder people attending Church don’t understand the gospel and aren’t able or willing to get involved in Discipleship. This idea leads people to adopt the “Bad Cop” Old Testament God who demands high religious morals or else he’ll punish you (legalism) or the “Good Cop” New Testament God who is all soft and mushy tolerating an easy believe-ism that says you can say you’re a Christian and still live as though you’re not (liberalism or antinomianism). Both extremes are contrary to the gospel and to scripture.
God is One and God’s goodness is demonstrated in his absolute unfailing commitment to fulfill his Word. God doing “good” is explained by the Psalmist as God doing what he said he would do. It is not by us dictating that God only do what makes us experience pleasure. What I consider hardship and affliction is “good”, says the Psalmist, because it drives me to trust and rely on God as the true source of goodness in life. When I pursue personal gain in the guise of doing good I am forgetting that God alone is good and my understanding is corrupted and imperfect. The only constant of goodness we have is God and he, through his Spirit, has given us his Word by which we can see, know and trust in Christ alone.