The Good People

“I’m basically a good person.”  “He was a good man.”  Lately it seems like I’ve been hearing those phrases a lot.  But what does “good” really mean?

We can all find people to compare ourselves with in order to justify that we’re “good.”  “Well, I’m better than so-and-so.  I try to be nice to other people, and sometimes I help out at that place downtown.  I didn’t even get angry at that guy who pulled out in front of me and went really slow this morning on my way to work.  So I’m good, right?”

But when we compare ourselves to people like Mother Teresa or Billy Graham, we’re, well, not quite so good.

A few months ago, one of my friends mentioned a conversation that he’d had with one of his Muslim friends.  His friend noted that one of the things that Islam taught was that you had an angel over one shoulder recording all your good deeds, and another angel over your other shoulder recording your sins.  When you died, the two books were weighed, and as long as the book of good deeds was heavier, you got to go to heaven.  From conversations I’ve had with people, and from the views presented by our culture today, it seems that many people have a similar view of things – that as long as you do more good than bad, you’ll be ok.

I guess the ultimate question is, how good is good enough?  I can’t imagine how unsettling of a life that would result in.  How do you know if you’ve done more good stuff than bad stuff?  How many good things does it take to outweigh a bad thing?  If I talk bad about one of my friends, how many times do I have to help little old ladies cross the street to offset that?  What about if we steal something?  Or tell a “little white lie”?  What if you don’t “convert” until an older age – how do you offset a lifetime of bad stuff in a few short years?  What if you kill someone when you’re a teenager – how much good do you have to do to offset that?  What if your “good things” can be recorded in one or two words, but your “bad things” take sentences or paragraphs?  Is there even any hope?

That depends.  If we try to earn our salvation, we’ll never be good enough.  Jesus told us in Matthew 5:20 that, “…unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”  If we follow the idea that our deeds alone are enough to cover us, as soon as we mess up one time, we’re done for.  We could spend our entire lives working as Mother Teresa did, but the second that we commit one sin, it’s too late.

But we do have hope because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the Cross.  That’s the key: our hope depends not on how good we are, but solely on what Jesus did.  We just have to accept His offer of Grace, confessing that Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10.)  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

Following Jesus as our Lord and Savior means more than just checking a checkbox one time and then living however we please; rather, we develop a relationship with Him and follow as He leads.  As we continue through life, there will still be times that we mess up though.  But, when we do sin, we are able to repent of that sin and be forgiven.  When we ask for forgiveness, we’re told that God will throw our sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12.)

 In other words, instead of everything depending on what’s written in the book from angel #1, we’re set free by the Blood of Jesus that washes our sins away.

(You might want to check out the page titled ‘Flowers‘ as well.)