If someone tells you that you are a good person, you might assume that it is because of something they have observed within you or in your life. However, if you ask someone else, “Are you a good person?” Their response is usually along the lines of, “Yea I think I’m a pretty good person.” If a person understands the nature of the question, they might try an honest response of, “I’m not a bad person,” or “I’m not a murderer.” The first response is interesting because the reason for why they think they are good is connected to the second response. If you ask, “Why do you think you are a good person?” The answer will lead to what the second person said which was, “I’m certainly not a bad person or as bad as a murderer.” The second response is admitting they are not that good, the first response doesn’t want to admit they are bad.
The third option, and is probably the most fair response is, “I hope the good that I do outweighs the bad.” The only measurement, realistically, would be to measure us against ourselves. If you are religious, spiritual, atheist or agnostic, the most rational response to your own morality is this balance of slightly better than bad. We see this a lot in eastern religions, the balance of good and evil is really this cosmic idea of good vs bad and we hope more people will do enough good for good to win in life.
There are other places in the world where it is not this way. In Cambodia, the form of Buddhism that takes place has the immediate assumption that everyone is evil and going to hell. Your goal is to do as much good as you can to try and take time off of your total years in hell. Even the monks who have given their entire lives to bettering themselves and doing the most good possible, are uncertain how much time in hell they will spend.
Here is the issue in all these questions and philosophies is this, “How do we decide what is good?” Is it you, is it us, is it the government, is it religion and if so, which one. Do all roads lead to the same place, as long as you do more good than bad. The ironic thing is if you decide that what is good is up to you, then you get to decide how much good or bad you have done so no matter what you do, you in essence go to heaven because you are your own law maker and judge. You can change the laws and judge yourself accordingly. The question of what is good is meaningless if we decide on our own, that which is good.
People look to the government to tell us what is good, or to dictate what is good. Governments should create peace, protect the innocent and create a system with which its constituents can have access to the necessities everyone needs to live. The rights of the individual is the American revolution. The world was changed when the experiment of the United States began. Has it taken lots of time for these rights to truly be given to everyone, yes of course. However, if you come from a country that has no individual rights and immigrate into the U.S., you will find that we have come along way and set the standard for the past couple hundred years. There are people in other places that live in a world where they are told what they will be and do. Everything is determined for them, so what is good is even limited.
My argument is to find the source of that which is good, and as a Christ follower, that source is found in God alone. We find this conversation recorded by the gospel author Luke ,”Then a certain ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus replied. “No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:18-19, NIV). This rhetorical question implies an answer. Another way of saying it is, “You call me good because I am God.”
God is good, and all that we define as good is because that is who God is. Are you God? Then you are not good, nor are you good enough. There is no balance or measurement against a good God. God isn’t just some guy trying to do the right thing, most of the time. God is the creator and sustainer of life and in order to be in harmony with his creation, God requires its creation to be as He is; which is good. When we commit the simplest of error, we are no longer good. We can do better and we can be better. This isn’t something Christians do on their own, it is only because of God in us which is the Holy Spirit. If I can posit this to you, you are not good enough and you can do better. There are many ways that people try to be better but that will only get you so far. Apart from your creator, your designer, you will eventually stop from exhaustion. It is hard to be good and not do bad. This Christmas be reminded that God’s goodness was displayed in the coming of Jesus. Goodness walked among us, our standard was made clear throughout his life. People interacted with, talked with and were touched by God’s immanent goodness in Christ. Are you as good as Jesus? No? Then you need Jesus.
In Truth & Love,
Matthew J. Diaz