“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” ~ Luke 6:27-28
“I’m a good person so I know I’ll go to heaven.” Have you heard that statement? Have you made that statement? It’s a popular way of thinking in today’s world. It is often said in reply to statements which challenge people to consider their personal relationship with Jesus in thinking about salvation and eternity.
So if being a good person is really all its about, what does it mean to be a good person?
Well, first it means that you are actively doing good. James 1:22 says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” It’s easy to think we know everything in today’s world. Technology has put not only a small computer but the entire internet in our pockets for us to carry around with us. Don’t know the answer, Google can likely get it for you in just a few seconds! We often tend to carry that same mentality over into our faith.
It’s easy to label the person who has a lot of verses memorized, or has a degree in theology, or even who reads a lot of books about faith as a good person. And while knowledge isn’t a bad thing, it doesn’t make you a good person all by itself. It must be paired up with actions. Perhaps the most striking example of this tendency is church leaders who are found to be engaging in illegal activities. Sure, they can give a good sermon and even write a good book, but too many are found to not be practicing what they preach. While none of them will ever be perfect, those who are truly “good people” strive to put what they have learned into action.
Second, being good means you have a general disposition to do all the good you are able to do. Being good means you seek out opportunities to do good in the world instead of just letting them happen to you. To have a general disposition to do good, you have to give yourself the time and space to do good. One thing this time of social distancing and staying home is teaching a lot of people is just how busy their lives were. This time is giving people and families an opportunity to really assess the various activities which are beneficial to them and which ones simply keep them busy.
It is my hope and prayer that when we are allowed to once again gather, we don’t rush to fill up the minutes of our days with activities again. I hope we allow ourselves more time in our daily schedules to look around and see the many opportunities to do something good for our friends, our neighbors, our community, and, yes, even our enemies. When things get stressful and overwhelming, I imagine a world emerging from this which does have time to check on the elderly neighbor, time to gather together as a family, time to stop and see if you can help that person pick up whatever they just dropped. I imagine a world which has realized it really does have time to be actively good.
And finally, being a good person means you are acting selflessly on behalf of others. You are not expecting anything in return. Galatians 5 reminds us that the entire law can be summed up with one command: Love your neighbor as yourself. Note that it doesn’t say love your neighbor you get along with, or agree politically with, or support their lifestyle choices, or any other qualifying you can come up with. It simply says love your neighbor. Why? Because doing good things for those you get along with is little more than exchanging favors. Doing good things for those who will return the favor or compensate you in some way serves you, not God.
Ultimately, being a good person means that you are actively participating in the kingdom work of calling everything BACK to God’s goodness. As a result, the motivation of your heart matters. Are you a good person because you are trying to earn your spot in heaven? Are you trying to prove you belong in heaven? Are you trying to show that you are a better person than someone else? Or are you a good person because God has called you to goodness?
Doing good, in and of itself, is not a bad thing nor is it something exclusive to Christians. Nor is salvation all about being a good person but about having faith in the saving Grace of Jesus Christ. But growing in goodness, growing in the selfless desire to do good, is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Are you wondering how to engage your kids in talking about the Fruit of the Spirit? Check out the Live Streaming Archives for our series of 1 Hour of Power shows. These shows take 15-20 minutes to watch and provide additional suggests for kids to further learn more about the Fruit of the Spirit.
How much of your confidence in salvation is based on being a good person and how much is based on Christ’s forgiveness for our sins? What is your motivation for being a good person? Why do you think people believe that simply being a good person will earn them salvation?
I love the song “King of My Heart” by Kutless and how it talks about putting God first because He is the ultimate example of what it means to be good.