Can’t I Just Be a Good Person?
…for millions of Christians, nevertheless, God is no more real than He is to the non-Christian. They go through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a mere principle. –A.W. Tozer, the Pursuit of God (chapter 4)
Have you ever met a Christian who grew up in a pretty stable environment, came from a loving home, but wanted to say that without Christ they would probably be a prostitute or homicidal maniac?
I know I’m exaggerating the point, but really, can we truly believe that everyone is doomed to a life of crime or debauchery without Christian morals? Of course, none of us can fully comprehend where we would be without grace, but I believe we’re missing the point when we try to convince people of their need of God in this way.
Chances are good my example person above would have never been homicidal maniac or been overly promiscuous or any number of detrimental things. They probably would have turned out as a person who got married, had a family, and tried to live a good life.
The world has a great number of these actually, and Christians shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge that there are bad people and those who try to do good, even apart from Christ.
Herein lies the sad reality: many have to make this point because it’s all they’re clinging to. When we don’t have personal experience of God or delve into His deeper reality, all we can hope for is to be better and more moral than those outside. Sin separates all of us for sure, but Jesus wasn’t only after making sure sin didn’t rule us anymore.
Did Paul write to the Philippians and tell them that his highest treasure was having a good, moral foundation? No, it was knowing Christ.
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, –Philippians 3:7-9
Too many are simply content to know the principle while forgetting to press into relationship with the Prince. They see God as unknowable. They see Jesus as intangible. They see the Holy Spirit as spooky. In embracing these views, we miss the point.
Jesus didn’t die to produce a morally superior race of people; He died for a Bride, a covenant people who would know Him–His heart, His mind, His will–and would come into abiding and oneness.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a good person, but it’s not why we’re Christians and we need to stop pretending that’s all there is.
God is not an ideal; He is a Person, and His word gives us example after example of people who knew and followed Him, who experienced a living reality.
We can unburden ourselves as we quit desperately trying to be better people and start displaying to the world what it looks like when a person knows Jesus. Then they’ll finally see Him, which forces a decision.
Yeah, that’s going to leave a mark.
What do you think? Have you ever felt compelled to make an argument that only Christians are good people? Do you feel differently about it than I do?
Welcome to week 7 of our book club discussion of the Pursuit of God (disclosure) by A.W. Tozer. We are taking a sentence, paragraph, or passage that inspires, encourages, or challenges and writing about it and we are taking two weeks for each chapter. If you have a response on your blog, head over to my friend and co-facilitator, Sarah Salter’s blog for the widget and another great take. Whether you’ve read the chapter or not, please share your thoughts! We always appreciate a vibrant conversation.