The Problem with Good People

I recently had a conversation with a professing Christian. In this conversation the subject of judgment and preconceived notions came up. This person insisted that making judgements was vital to getting along in society. They also insisted that we just can’t judge whether a person was good or not. They went on to insist that because of the “divine spark” in each person, all people are basically good people.

This person had determined long ago that they were going to see only the spark of good in each person. Therefore, they were always going to assume that each person had good reason for everything they did.

While this sounds good in the context of the local church and with fellow believers, it is tragically flawed. Furthermore, this mind-set fails to embrace what Holy Writ teaches us about all of humanity. Moreover, this view isn’t isolated in any way.

The totality of  Western Christian Culture (WCC )shares this view to some extent or another. A few weeks ago, I published an article about the shallow emotional nature of WCC. I would argue that there is such a lack of doctrinal depth that we see people as overall good characters.

This creates a problem for the Church. If even so much as one person is good, Christ death was invalidated. Consequently, all Scripture is refuted because our personal subjective opinions have trumped what Scripture teaches about mankind.

You can see the depth of this problem in the way people talk about their loved ones.

Aunty May went to her grave rejecting Christ with her last breath, but “She was such a good person.” Consequently, all her loved ones are assured they will see her in heaven. This is a sad state for WCC.

Defining Good People in an Accurate Way

I want to err on the side of love and believe all things about my fellow believers. That is a precept from Scripture after all. However, when fellow Christians refer to all humanity being basically filled with good people, a correction needs to be made. Do we genuinely believe that all people are good people, or is there something else going on?

My assertion is that due to the shallow emotionalism of WCC we have confused moral people for good people. Furthermore, this confusion has had an undue influence on the way the Church thinks today.

Is my argument that moral people are not good people? Yes, it is!

By-all-means we should be striving to achieve good moral values in our own lives. Especially in the family structure. Proverbs 22 instructs parents to raise up children in the way they should go. Christian homes bring the Gospel to bear on the children, but that does not produce good people.

Sadly, morality has replaced goodness or righteousness today. Therefore, terms which are not interchangeable biblically, have become synonymous. In the eyes of God, goodness is defined according to His righteousness. That righteousness is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. The Eternal Moral Law of God defines the measure of what righteousness truly is.

Good People and the Problem of Morality

On a certain level, morality is the demonstration of what is good or righteous. However, that only extends to a point based on a society or a culture. In one culture is may be morally acceptable for men to have sexual relations with minor children. In ancient Rome, and other cultures, all levels of adultery were acceptable and expected.

Still in other cultures cannibalism was morally acceptable. And lest we think that we have arrived as a worldwide community, we have only recently seen the eradication of chattel slavery in the west. Morally good people were often slave holders. Furthermore, in NAZI Germany the Holocaust was morally acceptable. Even now, in western society, abortion on demand at all stages of development, is perfectly acceptable according to societal mores.

However, when we observe these societal mores considering God’s Word, we see that they don’t meet the standard of righteousness.  In fact, in many cases, it was because of the application of God’s Eternal Moral Law and the preaching of the Gospel, that many of these things were dealt death blows.

Some of you may not be familiar with the story of the Ecuadorian missionaries that were murdered by the natives of the Amazon river basin. The culture that those natives lived in allowed for revenge and honor killings. Many times, entire villages of Imago Dei were slaughtered over minor insults.

The missionaries that survived remained in that area of Ecuador and labored intensely amongst the natives. Eventually, through the use of God’s Eternal Moral law and the application of the Gospel, the murders ceased. A people group that was on its way to extinction based on their own moral code, was saved to the glory of God. Prior to being exposed to God’s standards, these people thought there were good people.

Good People and Situational Morality

Throughout the New Testament, Christ was constantly confronting the “good people” around him. The Pharisees, the Scribes and Sadducees all had it nailed down tight. However, no one had it as nailed down as the Pharisees. They were the cultural equivalent of the untouchable elite. These folks were such good people that others compared themselves to them. Even Jesus told a group of followers that unless their righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees they could not enter heaven. There was a touch of irony in that statement.

However, every time we get an in-depth look at Christ, He is rebuking the Pharisees for their shallow morality and law keeping. Jesus even goes so far as to tell them their law-keeping morality meant nothing. In the case of the rich young ruler, Jesus exposes the man’s heart and destroys his sense of self-righteousness. He slinks away mortally wounded at the thought of giving up his possessions.

In the preamble to the Sermon on the Mount Jesus delivers a robust take-down of the idea of what good people are. Blessed are those he repeats numerous times. Nothing is more telling than verses 3-6. This is all about the recognition of the sinful state of man and the lack of anything good in them.

Jesus was about tearing down the societal sense of morality and proving just how not good people were. He wanted to make it clear that those who thought they were morally upright often were the furthest away from God.

However, this is not to say that Jesus was praising wicked immoral behavior. If you pay close attention He rebuked many. The woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery both received the equivalent of verbal gut punches.

Christ was exclusively interested in the righteousness of God.

Good People and the Good Teacher

I already mentioned the ruler from Mark 10. Now, I think it best to speak to something else that happens there. In the beginning of the encounter the rich chap runs up to Christ as He is about to embark on a journey and says something profound. “Good teacher what must I do…” Jesus is not phased and doesn’t miss the chance to correct the man. Why do you call me good when no one is good but God…?”

Jesus wasn’t denying His own inherent goodness. He was directing the man to God’s standards. In effect He was saying, “If you want to call me good it better be based on the sole standard of what good is.”

Christ was building on the foundation of the Old Testament to prove that no one was good but God. Going as far back as Psalm 14 we see that God was making it clear that no one is good. This theme is resplendent throughout Holy Writ. Isaiah 53 tells us that that like mindless sheep we have gone astray and turned to our own wicked desires.

Jesus, the one that so many of the folks in WCC lean on as their example of what it means to be non-confrontational, is utterly brutal when it comes to the wickedness of man. He leaves no room for good people to truly exist.

Jesus must lay this out clearly and for a very good reason. What He was about to do at the end of His earthly ministry depended on the reality that there were no good people. He must go to the cross as the only truly good person that had ever lived. Anything short of that and His death would have been a waste. The Imago Dei was shattered. Christ had to atone.

The Only Good Person

It is imperative for us to understand that Christ was the only good person who had ever lived. This was the point of Christ’s earthly ministry. He came to live the life none of us could ever live. He had to. Because it was living that life that allowed Him to die the death we deserved. It was in that death that He suffered what He did not deserve so that we would benefit from His death.

No matter how much we want to lovingly see others in a positive light, we must see them biblically. Let the notion of good people be put to death in our minds. Let us look with pity on the masses and see them as the wicked sinners that they are. Just as we once were.

If we see others as good people, we can never properly preach the Gospel. We cannot properly love our neighbors as Christ commands. If we see good people everywhere we look we demonstrate that we do not know the Gospel.

I urge you my beloved readers, make sure that you have this right in your mind. Christ was the only good person to ever walk the earth and He was murdered for it. If you can see this, it will free you to preach the Gospel rightly. However, if you fail to have this right in your mind, you will fail to preach the Gospel properly. Stop saying that people are basically good. Start reminding yourself and others that no one is good, not even one. Then turn and preach the Gospel!

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd