Let’s be honest for a second. You’re not a good person. And I’m not just picking on others or being a “judgmental Christian” like some might try and say. I’m not a good person, either. None of us are.
“Good” means that we don’t hurt people. “Good” means that we are always happy to love, serve, and give. “Good” means that we are obedient and, unsurprisingly, always do what is, well…good.
Every one of us knows what is right and what is wrong, and every one of us has intentionally chosen the wrong thing even as defined by our own standards. In fact, we do it daily. We even take pleasure in doing what we know to be wrong. And so how, if we can’t even measure up to our own standard of good, can we possibly say that we’ve achieved goodness in the sight of our perfect Creator?
Mostly good isn’t good–just like mostly faithful isn’t faithful and mostly loving isn’t loving–especially when we have several bad, unfaithful, and unloving moments every day. That’s like robbing a bank every day and then telling the court that you aren’t a “bank robber.”
At your court hearing, you might say, “It seems a bit harsh, and frankly, pretty offensive that you would label me based on what was going on for just 10 minutes of my day.”
Good luck with that logic.
What’s even more worrisome is that if God has the power to look past our surface-level actions and see our hearts, then He also sees all those moments where we may have ended up choosing the right thing to do, but with selfish and twisted motivations. Suddenly, we’re having to answer for dozens if not hundreds or thousands of imperfections every day.
This is why Jesus is in a league of His own. He is the only historical figure claiming to be from God or to have intimate knowledge of the spiritual world who was honest enough to say that the heart of man is not as good as we want others to think it is. He was the first to say that, no, we can’t impress God and make Him think that we deserve His favor. Fallen and sinful really does mean fallen and sinful. In fact, one of the requirements Jesus gave for His followers was for each of them to admit that they can’t get to God on their own good intentions and efforts. As humans, we really don’t deserve God’s favor. We’ve proven time and time again that we’re selfish and would rather live in worship of ourselves than our Creator.
Such an honest, earth-shattering truth immediately elevates the man who spoke it to be an important figure in my view. And when that same man willingly died to give us the solution to that truth, I’m in. To me, that makes Jesus not only more trustworthy but also more realistic than any other religious figure.
It’s so common to compliment each other by exclaiming what good people we are. We even take offense to the idea of being held accountable for our rebellion against good with the argument, “but overall, I’m a good person.” But that’s just it. You’re not. Just like an apology, our confession of sin is completely undone when we attempt to justify it by placing a “but” at the end of it. That reaction attempts to downplay a sin that Jesus would have demanded repentance of.
And please don’t try to accuse Christians of thinking they’re perfect. You might be surprised to read that the genuine gospel doesn’t allow us to judge others. We fail at it all the time (surprise, that’s what sinful people do), but we are called to respond with love, even when talking about truth. But to be loving does not mean to neglect truth. Truth matters because it impacts reality. That’s what true things do. To stay quiet about truth in order to avoid an uncomfortable encounter is actually a selfish and unloving response.
Many self-proclaimed Christians might not understand this yet, but you cannot be a Christian and a good person. By definition, to be a Christian is to say that you need a savior for being such a bad person. And when others comment on how “good” you seem, it’s an immediate opportunity to explain that, actually, you’re not. It’s your savior, Jesus, who is perfect. You are just doing your imperfect best to follow Him and trust that what He said is true.
We can love without being good people. I would argue that it actually makes our love more reliable because it points to the Source of love rather than our own desires. Besides, broken and sinful people are the best at loving other broken and sinful people. Empathy doesn’t exist unless we can relate to hardship.
We can also serve and give without calling ourselves “good.” The service and gifts from someone who doesn’t see those things as a resume booster are much more likely to come from a position of worship and humility. It’s better on the receiving end as well, since joy doesn’t work all that great when we feel like we deserve everything. Grace in itself requires there to be an undeserving recipient.
To say that we are good undoes the very backbone of what Jesus came to do–fulfill our need for a Savior.
We need to start rejecting the notion that there are good people around us, no matter how nice they are in the moment. We need to start connecting those “nice” moments to how good God is rather than giving all the credit to someone who sins just as much as we do.
Why does this matter? Isn’t this just semantics about a harmless compliment? No. Because it leads to a worldview that doesn’t put full reliance of salvation on Jesus. A Christian who has bought into that popular view will only be able to scratch his head when asked, “If you’re so good, then what’s the point of Jesus on the cross?”
Does sin even exist anymore in today’s popular worldview? If it does, why is it so offensive? If God is real, and we are not God, then we automatically have imperfections to account for. Why is anyone who agrees that sin still matters automatically labeled as judgmental and hateful?
If you’re not a Christian, then knock yourself out. See if you can find that reassurance you’re looking for that says, “Okay, now you’re good enough.” Keep on telling yourself that if God is good, then He wouldn’t judge you based on your imperfections. You’ll have to ignore the historical fact that God has proven His goodness to be even better and deeper than just ignoring our sin. He’s gone so far as to provide the perfect, eternal sacrifice that only He was qualified to give. It’s what we needed all along to be redeemed in complete purity.
And the best part about it is this: we need only to trust Him.