Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Good Moral People

We live in a world that believes people are basically good.  It also says our failings ("sins" seems too harsh a word) are the result of our environment and upbringing.  Therefore, except perhaps for the extreme examples, the Hitlers and Stalins, we are all good moral people.  Sometimes, even without quite admitting it to ourselves, Christians can start to fall into this mindset.  Even though we profess we are sinners saved by grace, we can start to feel we are good people and our Christianity has made us just a bit better.  Even if we manage to keep this attitude at bay as regards salvation, it can try to sneak its way back in as regards our living for Christ:  we needed God to save us, but now we can proceed to live as good moral people on our own.  This is an attitude that relentlessly tries to sneak its way into our lives if we are not on guard against it.

The Bible makes it clear that far from being basically good people, we are people with deceitful hearts whose righteous deeds are as filthy rags before God (Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10,11). We are further told that without a work of God in our life we can do nothing toward truly obeying Him (John 15:5; Romans 8:8; 7:18). Nor are we encouraged to believe that even after we are saved, we have become good people (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 John 1:8-10; Galatians 5:17).  The last part of Romans 7 (7:14-25) is one of the more debated passages of Scripture.  But given that the passage is in the present tense and that the conclusion in verse 25 leaves Paul in the situation described, I would conclude that this was Paul's then-current experience as a person who genuinely wanted to follow God.  (Also, the question this passage is trying to answer, Why can I not be saved by the Law? (see verses 7:7,13), is best answered by saying that even after I am saved I cannot fully keep God's Law.) Not that the believer cannot do anything good, but we always fall short of the good we wish to do. This leaves me with the conclusion that we must trust in God's work in us to live for God (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29).

This is important because if we believe we are good moral people, we will be tempted to accept our current condition as adequate rather than pressing on to follow Christ.  Also, we can come to trust in our ability to do what is right rather than in the power of God. And it can encourage us to look down on those who are seen as falling below our standards of morality.   But if we recognize that we are sinners saved by the grace of God and if we see ourselves as being changed, but not being completely holy until we stand before God, we will have a different attitude.


  1. I've shared the Gospel with a lot of people over the years. And I must say, that the most difficult ones to witness to were the religious moral people. A no good rotten sinner living in the streets was more often receptive to the Good News than the moral person. Sad, :-(

  2. It is sad but I am afraid I have had much the same experience. It is those who think they do not need a a physician, who are the most difficult to get to consider the gospel.