As long as Jesus Christ remained to me a legendary figure (or at best, a great man), the inevitable greeting on all white embossed Christmas cards with wisemen left me quite cold:
“Peace on earth … good will toward men!”
It sounded like a nice idea. But so vague and uninteresting to me that I marked off my list for next year every person who sent me a white embossed card with wisemen and the “good will” greeting. I marked them off because good will bored me. And so did the cards. I am not merely free to admit this now that I am a Christian and understand about Christmas. I would have told you then too, with no embarrassment whatever, that good will interested me not at all.
At least not a general good will toward all men.
Toward women either, for that matter.
From A Business Standpoint
I was an extremely “natural” minded individual before the year 1949 when I became a believer in Jesus Christ, and as far as I can see, general good will is just not a “natural” virtue. It is an excellent idea from a business standpoint and it is necessary for the few close friendships we care to protect. But for me (B.C.) good will was something as uninteresting and pale as those who sent the pale blue Christmas cards with white embossed “good will” and wisemen.
Mr. Webster defines the word virtue as a particular moral excellence. In my teens I learned that Plato identified what he called the four cardinal virtues and they bored me too. As I remember, Plato’s four cardinal virtues were: prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice.
Words that I could well leave alone, except to make use of them when trying to raise the listener rating on one of the “soap opera classics” I happened to be writing script for at the time. Housewives, I soon learned, waxed adoring if the heroine had any one of Plato’s four cardinal virtues. Their adoration increased—raising my rating still another notch—if heroine Geraldine Graciousness possessed all four of Plato’s cardinal virtues plus a husband who had a mistress and a failing business!
Soap Flakes And Scripture
I made frequent use not only of Plato’s four virtues, but the twenty-third Psalm as well—quoted slowly and with courage (and an occasional mistake) by the actress playing Geraldine Graciousness for a little above union scale. Either extreme virtue or free use of the Scriptures caused the listener to listen and feel righteous along with Geraldine. I found that housewives loved to hear Scripture and to overhear “filter mike” telephone conversations intended only for the ears of Geraldine’s wayward husband and a hoped-for fifty million women who would buy some brand of soap flakes on the weekend shopping trip.
But virtues that appealed to Plato were merely tools to me as a writer of radio drama. So were the Scriptures. All words were merely tools and I used them with the callous abandon of a spoiled child. The spoiled child nor I cared little that the scars we made would last. Only that the tools were sharp and we had them to use.
If the words I used raised my listener rating and my paycheck, nothing else mattered. I had finished weeping over the adolescent longing to write greatly for a “posterity” I would never know and for which I cared not at all, and so I used words and virtues and hearts and Holy Scripture and broken homes to any advantage I pleased.
And of course, at Christmas time I incorporated in the “sponsors’ message” (which always had a “spiritual twist” and a “religious gimmick” at the close) all the Platonic virtues I could scrape up along with the old stand-by wisemen greeting about “good will.”
ANNOUNCER: (Using Most Poignant Pear-Shaped Tones) And now … to your house, at this Holy time of year … when all human hearts are turned toward Bethlehem, the native city of all virtue … comes the heart-deep wish from all of us here in the Geraldine Graciousness studio … and from our beloved sponsor, the makers of the original sparkling, sudsing, seething DOUBLE BUBBLE, the soap that loves your face … from all of us and from our sponsor, here is that heart-deep wish I started forty-seven seconds ago—(up) to all of you everywhere … “Peace on earth, good will toward men!”
MUSIC: Organ Up on “Hark the Herald Angels” On Phrase “God and sinners reconciled, etc.”
Words For Good Or Ill
You are reading this article in a Christian magazine. I am writing it with the same medium I employed for years to whet appetites for overrich foods, alcoholic beverages, illicit romance and gossip. I am writing it with the same medium I used to break hearts and damage reputations and avenge and amuse myself. The same words, being used by the same writer who piled them up for twelve years and then knocked them over into broken homes and innocent lives and was amused and gratified if the tears fell and the sparks flew and the hearts broke.
Characterization was always a dear delight to me. The more “realistic” the more I loved doing it. I knew, for example, that certain Christians back home listened to my day-time serials and I also suspected that they were praying for me. This infuriated me into one of my most “successful” characterizations. A middle-aged country woman, whose “fictitious” first name in my script was the same as one of the praying churchgoers at home, prayed ungrammatical prayers designed to leave the housewife first in tears and then laughter, because immediately following the “prayer” my character inevitably did something to make a donkey of herself socially.
The woman back home with the same first name kept listening and continued to pray for me, for which I thank God.
Some eleven years ago as I write this, in a West Coast city, another “fan” of mine did not know that I knew she listened regularly to the opus we are calling Geraldine Graciousness. And of course she didn’t know her niece in Chicago had told me that Auntie’s husband was not at all interested in being Auntie’s husband any longer. Personally I had always thought marriage very foolish and unwise and expensive to escape, so it amused me to build an entire sequence around this woman’s tragedy. Her home was broken up forever.
“Good will toward men.”
It bored me.
It was strange to me. I hadn’t much of it. Neither did many of the people I liked. Certainly we didn’t have it toward any but a very few who pleased us. I still believe this is true of most of the people in the world in whom Christ does not live. I didn’t know it was there then, but one fact in the Bible I did believe before I was converted to Jesus Christ. Now I know the Bible says “there is none righteous, no not one” simply because there is none righteous.
Invasion Of The Divine
And so, I wasn’t very unique in my old life. I was “natural.” And good will toward all men is a result of the invasion of the super-natural! A state of good intention with “heartiness and cheerful consent” toward all mankind, if Webster is correct. A state of heart so extraordinary as to be unheard of, except by those who have been hurled out into the place of joyful, utter despair with themselves where they are finally allowing Jesus Christ to be Himself in them!
I did not sit at my typewriter in the old days fancying myself as an evil woman with sole intent to wound. I was merely “natural” and therefore uninterested in good will. Except when it encouraged or abetted or entertained me in some way.
Even the dictionary calls Plato’s virtues “natural” and the Christian virtues “virtues infused by God.” To infuse means to pour into. God pours His own virtue and righteousness and love into us when we receive Christ. When He comes, He comes not just delivering a “spirit of good will” in a package, but He begins the very real process of forming His own wall in us!
When I received Him, He came being my good will. He came being my faith whereby I can lay hold of the stunning and glorious fact that when He died on Calvary the “old girl,” who drove word splinters into the hearts of unsuspecting people for the sheer fun of it, died too! My need to wound died when He died of His wounds crying loudly as He died, “It is finished! It is finished!” My need to hurt died with Him. My desire to hurt died with Him. And up from the grave of that co-crucifixion sprang a new and unfamiliar woman at whom I have come to wonder. A woman with my name who no longer wants to hurt. A woman who can do nothing of herself, but who has fallen under the influence of the One who did it all for her on a very rough, real Cross. Who has fallen under the transforming influence of this same One who has come to live His Life in her, since she received Him seven years ago.
The One who has become my righteousness. My virtue. My good will.
Good will is no mean virtue.
Good will pours out love and concern toward every lovely and unlovely person on earth. Good will is no Platonic virtue! It is “infused by God” when the Man-God Christ comes to live within.
I reach toward you with the same old words and great new good will at this Christmas time of year.
I can now.
Because Jesus Christ Himself is my good will.
For eleven years before her conversion to Christ in 1949, Eugenia Price wrote for network radio in both Chicago and New York. She closed her own production office to write and direct the Christian dramatic program Unshackled in 1950, then resigned in 1955 to release the transcribed radio series Visit with Genie. Miss Price is author of four books, Discoveries, The Burden Is Light, Never a Dull Moment and Early Will I Seek Thee.
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