"He went about doing good …" (Acts 10:38).
When I first read this summary of the life of Jesus given by Peter to a centurion named Cornelius, it struck me as droll. To say, "He went about doing good" sounds like something an uncatechized 5-year-old would say. Or a master of understatement. Or a religious liberal.
Nevertheless, I like the thought of it. What would you say about Jesus' earthly life? How would you sum it up to a person unfamiliar with the gospel? Peter, of course, did not neglect to tell the soldier the other crucial elements regarding Jesus' atoning death and resurrection, and the remission of sins (verses 34-43 for the complete transcript that remains). But if anybody wants to know what Jesus did before the events clustered at the end, "He went about doing good."
Part of that "doing good" was "healing all who were oppressed by the devil" (verse 38). In addition, Jesus, of course, did a lot of teaching and preaching (Matthew 4:23). He also performed other miscellaneous deeds, such as producing wine from water to save a wedding.
I like "He went about doing good" for several reasons. One is that it is a broader category than the others-broader than healing, or teaching, or preaching, or winemaking-and wide enough to fit into itself all the other categories.
Moreover, if Jesus "went about doing good," then that tells me that His miracles may not merely have been signs to authenticate his divinity. They were that, of course. But He also healed lepers because He liked "doing good." We picture Jesus as a man going around looking for ways to help. Some days it's healing. Some days it's gathering children in his arms. Some days it's giving up his scheduled R&R with the Apostles to feed thousands on a grassy knoll by the sea. Some days it's telling off the Pharisees in the hopes that they will repent.
The other reason I like Peter's thumbnail summary is because "going about doing good" is such a modest way of speaking. It conjures that other modest precept we associate with the medical profession: "Primum non nocere" ("First, do no harm"). In common parlance we talk about "good-deed doers" a few notches less enthusiastically than we talk about "heroes." But we should not, since the inspired Scripture itself comes up with no more exalted praise for the Son of Man than that "He went about doing good."
We are told by John that "whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked" (1 John 2:6). I'm thinking that means we ought to keep our eyes open for ways to "go around doing good." And we are able to do it, by the grace He purchased for us.
Goodness is one of the nine listed fruit of the Spirit. I see it as distinct from-not synonymous with-the fruit called "kindness" or "gentleness." "Goodness," in the Bible, always seems to refer to giving or creating something that was not there before, rather than depicting a mere disposition to be kind or gentle. God created the heavens and the earth. "And God saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:10).
Let us imitate the Master and "go about doing good."