In efforts to teach the Gospel to non-Christians, the retort often comes back, “well I’m already a good person. Why do I need to become a Christian?” When looking for prospects to teach the Gospel, some Christians make this observation: “he’s already a good moral person, so becoming a Christian will be a cinch for him.” Many who play armchair quarterback, judgment day edition, boldly pronounce, “I can’t imagine that person wouldn’t go to heaven. Think of all the good they did.” What is the difference between a Christian and a “good person?”
A Christian is freed from sin. A mere good person is not. Unlike us, God does not evaluate men by a nebulous, subjective standard of good or bad. One of the fundamental teachings of the Gospel is that men & women of accountable age are NOT good. “There is none righteous, not even one” (Rom 3:10). That’s the bad news of the Gospel—all who sin are lost. In our efforts to label good people and bad people, we merely make subdivisions in a category God has already labeled “sinners.” Here is something a Christian can say that a mere good person cannot: “(I) was washed…sanctified…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:10). No matter how we might view the goodness of a person, they have still sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).
A Christian imitates Christ. A mere good person does not. We all know people who are morally good but are not Christians. We know non-Christians who are good neighbors, love their family, are honest & trustworthy, and are good employees. While it is commendable that by their own will they have lived that way, they have not done it because it is Christ’s Will. It is true that Christians should be good people, and they will have much in common with good non-Christians. But Christians have an altogether different motivation. We are not “good” because of societal pressure, a man-made standard, a creed, a self-help book, or consequences from non-compliance. Christians imitate Christ. We love our enemies because Jesus did. We forgive because Jesus did. We turn the other cheek because Jesus did. We pay our taxes because Jesus did. We obey God because Jesus did. We are humble because Jesus was. We avoid sin because Jesus did. We bring others to God because Jesus did. We are willing to suffer for God’s cause because Jesus did.
The label of “good” is something that men subjectively apply using a standard they have invented. Although it will always be a byproduct of becoming a Christian, Jesus never said, “I came to make bad people good and good people better.” Jesus said, “I have come to seek and save that which was lost” (Lk 19:10).