The term “good will” is one I love. Webster defines good will as “a friendly or kindly attitude; benevolence” or “cheerful consent; willingness.” It is an important term, one that can affect our entire disposition and approach toward life.
The fictitious King Midas had a magical touch that turned everything to gold. Believers do not have a “Midas Touch,” but exuding good will comes close. I have seen good will on the part of one marital partner literally save a marriage. I have seen Christians take giant spiritual leaps ahead because someone believed in them, expressing good will. Few of us realize the untapped power available to them when we have an attitude of good will. Embracing good will makes us a blessing to others.
I think of good will as a positive attitude that expects the best from others, sometimes despite previous disappointments. It is wishing well to another, hoping things will prosper for that person, or giving that person a fresh chance to deliver the goods. It is certainly foolish to trust someone who has proven inconsistent or obstinate; good will is not for every situation, but it is for most.
In my mind, good will is related to concepts like “edification” (building up), “encouragement” and “grace.” Sometimes good will shows itself as a small token act in an effort to nudge a negative situation into a more positive track. For example, if you and a friend have recently had a conflict, buying that person a small gift can serve as an act of good will. Going out of your way to be kind to a person who sees things differently from you (in spiritual or political matters, for example) is also an act of good will. I remember in the 1980 presidential election debate when Ronald Reagan surprised everyone by walking over to Jimmy Carter’s side of the stage and shaking hands. Carter was more surprised than anyone! You can show good will toward those against whom you compete.
There is a big difference between good will and its inferior imitators: gullibility, naïveté, or a guilt-driven people-pleasing personality. Good will is exercised as an act of strength and kindness; sometimes it involves a calculated risk, but it is never an escape from reality. Good will is an act of the will, which is where the “will” of good will gets its name. Good will is a choice to expect and encourage the best in others. I would suggest we make it our default setting.
Good will is sometimes best taught by example. If a man who exudes good will is buying a used car from another man, for instance, his concern should be a fair deal—not necessarily the lowest possible price. If two people are arguing (be they married or associates at work) and just one of them exudes good will, it will probably change the course of the argument. This is even more the case if that person proves more concerned about truth, fairness, and objectivity than about winning the argument. He may even share facts that work against his side, providing his opponent with ammunition! When corrected, he receives potential correction with, “You might be right about that, let me think about it.”
Christians who are strong in the good will department are a special asset to a local church and the greater Kingdom of God. Sure, good will may be taken advantage of, or met with rejection and ingratitude. More often, however, expressions of good will seem to be greeted with blessing and relational bonding. Solomon wrote a few interesting Proverbs about good will, one of which I shall quote:
He who seeks good finds good will, but evil comes to him who searches for it. (NIV, Prov. 11:27)
I might be off a little, but this reminds me of the American proverb, “You find what you are looking for.” If you look for good will in others, you are more prone to find it. If you assume evil motives on the part of others, you tend to discover what you assumed. That might not be exactly what Solomon meant, but I think I’m in the ballpark.
Good will is a great motive for sharing Christ. Our concern for the lost around us and a desire to glorify God form a healthy motivational alliance. But some people share Christ out of guilt or a competitive spirit. We have to agree with Paul that sharing Christ from a false motive is not the best way to do it, but it is better than not sharing at all. Notice Paul’s words:
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Philippians 1:15-18 (ESV)
I love the term “good will” because it fits so nicely into a relational approach toward evangelism. It also summarizes a proper approach toward edification and relationships in general. Loving others well includes considering them, opening up to them, and enjoying them. Good will energizes and promotes that sort of love.
Do you habitually wish others well? Or do you view yourself as competing with them? Do you find pleasure in being gracious, overlooking faults, and empathizing with others? Or is your default setting to assume ill motives? Let me encourage you to exude good will as a habit of life.
Ed Vasicek was raised as a Roman Catholic in Cicero, Illinois. During his senior year in high school (1974), Cicero Bible Church reached out to him, and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Ed earned his BA at Moody Bible Institute. He has served as pastor of Highland Park Church since 1983. Ed and his wife, Marylu, have two adult children. Ed has written many weekly columns for the opinion page of the Kokomo Tribune, published articles in Pulpit Helps magazine, and posted many papers at his church website. Ed has also published the The Midrash Key and The Amazing Doctrines of Paul As Midrash: The Jewish Roots and Old Testament Sources for Paul’s Teachings.