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It's Not About Being a 'Good' Christian


“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 3:23-24

I’m a perfectionist. 

Not for everything— my room would certainly tell you otherwise— but for many areas in my life, especially ones involving creating in some way or another. If I’m going to do it, I want to do it right. I want it to be the best thing I could have possibly made (or better). 

Of course, if you’ve lived for any time on this earth you’ll find that this mindset is simply impractical. 

Sometimes your skill level just doesn’t line up with your starry-eyed ideals, or you don’t have the time required to pull off such a masterpiece. Most of the time, something’s going to be a bit off, something could have been a bit better, and you’ll have to deal with it. 

The Christian life is definitely no exception. In fact, if anything lines up to the idea that perfection is a myth, it’s that. 

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8 

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In my family, the importance of being faithful to God throughout all areas of life is a much-discussed topic. It always has been. The majority of my discussions with my parents involve some sort of thread on this topic. (That or silly word plays, where we twist everything the other person says and debate back and forth over nothing just for fun. A rather interesting past-time and not for those who hate nitpickers, that’s for sure.) Even when we were little kids and couldn’t answer those kinds of questions for ourselves or discuss them with anywhere near the complexity they deserve, there was always an emphasis on pleasing God through our actions by the rules my parents set in place, as well as their actions.

I always knew that we didn’t do these things to be ‘right with God.’ I knew that our good works are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). I knew we couldn’t be perfect, or even close to perfect. But as I’m figuring out more and more, it’s not about knowing the truth, it’s about living out the truth— believing it so deeply that it can’t help but seep into your life. Those are two very different things. 

So despite all that head knowledge, I’d try to live as a ‘good’ Christian anyway (whatever that even means). I’d try to do all the things that being a ‘good’ Christian included and check all the boxes (because there’s totally a set list of things that make up a ‘good’ Christian). And of course, I’d fail. Eventually, I’d realize— even though I hypothetically already knew this— that it just wasn’t enough. I was still sinning, I was still tripping all over my feet, and I couldn’t really fix it. Not as much as I wanted to. I couldn’t balance resting in Christ and trying to please him. So I’d just give up and forget about being a ‘good’ Christian and wonder why it never seemed to work no matter how many times I decided I was going to really try this time. 

Of course, that was exactly the problem. I was trying to do it by myself. I was trying to be perfect again. Yes, I prayed for help, but ultimately I was relying on myself. Not only was I relying on myself, but ultimately I was doing it for myself as well. To be quite frank, it became about feeling good about myself, being about to think of myself as a 'good' Christian. I didn't think of it in those terms, but that's what it was. And by the end of it, all of my motives were self-centered.

Now I’m not saying that there’s no place for trying to live a life that’s pleasing to God. Not at all. We should be striving to faithful, to be living as children of God; the Bible makes that crystal clear.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Romans 6:1-2
“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:26

There is nothing wrong with reaching for perfection either, even when we know we cannot get it in this life. In fact, that’s something we should be striving towards. Our life shouldn’t be a half-hearted crawl for God— it should be a run, as described in Hebrews 12:1. Christ saved us from ourselves and our destructive ways despite our natural hatred for him and his ways; our thankfulness should be anything but half-hearted! 

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As you may have guessed by my continuous use of quotations marks, I don’t like the word good when combined with the word Christian. (For anyone who knows me, they’ll know that I just love being incredibly picky with words. And that’s because 1) my family has trained me well in the art of clarifying through years of teasing, 2) I’m a word snob and it brings me great joy to pick words apart and 3) I think definitions are extremely important when it comes to understanding key principles in life and in the Bible and bad definitions can lead to improper understandings which in turn hamper our Christian walk. Not good.)

So why don’t I like the term ‘good Christian’? Well, mostly because it’s confusing. 

When we use good to describe a type of person (e.g. good pianist, good student) we’re typically talking about someone who has the necessary qualities to fill their position well. Christians? Well, without Christ’s covering of us and the work of the Holy Spirit, we have absolutely nothing in our favor compared to anyone else. We're not qualified to be followers of Christ, we just happen to be because of God's amazing grace.

“God looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” Psalm 53:2-3

Yes, I’m sure there are fine ways to define good in this context, but it’s too misleading and it can frame our mindset in an unhealthy direction so that we end up focusing on the ‘goodness’ of an action rather than the glory it brings God. It becomes about us. 

Plus, the fact is we are not called to be ‘good’ Christians, we are called to be faithful Christians. And— shocking I know— it’s not about being a faithful Christian either. Being a faithful Christian should be an essential part of our lives, but life is still not about that.

So what is life about? Get your answers ready Sunday school girls and boys because you know the answer. It’s Christ, of course. I’m sure you saw this coming from a mile away but sometimes— all the times— we need the reminder because it’s oh-so-easy to forget. 

We need to focus on Christ because it’s when we focus on him and our thankfulness for him that we will be able to be truly (however imperfectly) faithful to him.

I’m not saying that if you just focus on Christ and your thankfulness for him and let your actions spill from that love for him then everything will be all happy and dandy and you’ll never have problems with being unfaithful or focusing too much on yourself. No. The fact is, life on this earth is never going to be perfect. We’re always going to mess up and continually need to go back to God and repent and get up again. 


But we can rest in Christ knowing that despite our weaknesses and shortcomings, he has covered us and we are perfect and blameless in God’s sight. We don’t have to worry about being 'good' Christians because Christ has made us righteous through his death and he loves us as his children despite our imperfection. 

Isn't that an awesome feeling? Knowing that we are loved not for what we can do for God but simply because he chose to?
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