Being Good

Three Scenarios of Trying to Be Good

Scenario #1: Recently, Ruth, my 95-year-old mother-in-law called me from her hospital bed. She had been admitted due to multiple issues that were causing her to feel weak and sick.

    “Hey Deb,” she said when I answered the phone.            

    “Ruth, how are you?”

     “Oh, I’m okay. The doctors are running tests.”

     “I’m so sorry you are not feeling well,” I said.

     “Yeah. But listen, I called to tell you that I was talking to my doctor about some things and then I asked her if she was a Christian. She said, ‘Not a very good one.’ So I said to her, ‘My daughter-in-law writes books and I’d like to give you a devotional she wrote; it might help you.’” (That’s my mother-in-law—spreading God’s love everywhere she goes!)

Scenario #2: Denzel Washington plays the role of Robert McCall in the Equalizer movies. In The Equalizer 3, McCall is wounded, and before his doctor considers helping, he asks, ‘Are you a good man or a bad man?’ McCall replies, ‘I don’t know.’  And the doctor said, ‘Only a good man would have said that.’”

Scenario #3: A rich young ruler told Jesus he had kept all the commandments his whole life and asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”1 And when he heard Jesus’ answer, “he went away sorrowful.”2

It’s the way many people live their lives—trying to figure out how to be a good person. It’s not a bad mission; it’s just an impossible one to achieve. And before we discuss how to solve this problem, let’s see what Jesus said to the ruler that made him so sorrowful.

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’”3 So . . . does that mean that we should all sell everything that we have, too? No. Jesus knew the ruler could not do what he asked. That was his point. No one can be good enough. But the rich ruler considered himself a good man—which, according to McCall’s doctor means he was not a good man! And Robert McCall wasn’t sure he was a good man, which according to his doctor meant he was a good man! And Ruth’s doctor was sure she was not a good woman, which according to McCall’s doctor meant she definitely was a good woman! Hmm.

Is McCall’s doctor correct? Maybe. I do think that if Robert McCall were to tell Jesus he did not know if he was a good man, and Ruth’s doctor were to tell Jesus she was not a good Christian, Jesus would have said something like, “I don’t care!” Because that’s really what Jesus was saying to the rich young ruler when he boasted about his goodness. His response was, “I don’t care!”  

Jesus does not care how good or bad we are.  And yet most people believe he does. They honestly believe that God only loves good people. So here is the solution to the problem: “God soooo loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”4

It’s not about being good or doing good things. It’s not about doing anything! One time some followers asked Jesus, “‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’”5 God simply asks that we believe that he is who he says he is—the God who loves us. When we allow God’s love to enter our lives, he empowers us to become the good people we have always wanted to be. But even when we are not good, he still loves us!

But if we really want to experience his power and love and become good people, we need to become a disciple of his; that is, study his Word and daily walk in God’s presence.  It’s an option, but that’s how we really begin to “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”6 When we are “filled with all the fullness of God,” we can stop trying so hard to be good.

And so. The end of the matter is this: Being good, although better than being bad, is not as good as it sounds.

1Matthew 19:16   2Matthew 19:22   3Matthew 19:21   4John 3:16   5John 6:28-29   6Ephesians 3:18-19


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