There is a popular view that most people are in fact good. We come to this conclusion because many people act kindly toward us, others perform heroic and brave deeds from time to time and because we are conscious of trying to do the right thing.
Yet when we are honest with ourselves and are prepared to think realistically rather than sentimentally about what we observe in human behaviour we are forced to arrive at another conclusion. We are in fact not consistently good.
How often for example, do we help someone out and then either feel proud of ourselves or hope that someone might have seen us to either praise us to our face or better still to others. If someone does not acknowledge us then we refuse to offer help again under the claim that it was not appreciated. Or how often do we handle ourselves fairly well in regard to others neither retaliating nor speaking harshly of or to them but then harbour a bitterness in our heart or a self-righteous attitude, “I’m glad I’m not as bad as them.”
Then there are times when we know we should do something and failed to do it. A word of appreciation that should be spoken, some act of welcome or kindness to the stranger or lonely person neglected show us that at heart we are not good.
Add to this our failure to regularly thank, obey, praise or listen to God and we recognise that it would be entirely inconsistent and presumptuous to call ourselves good.
A grim picture? A negative assessment? Maybe, but the only one that makes sense of the evidence we see within our own hearts and as we observe humanity.
Yet it is an assessment that brings relief and hope. Good Friday unmasks us by reminding us that God’s assessment of us is that we are not good but we are greatly loved.
When Jesus died for us it was to provide pardon. But God’s pardon is not automatically applied to our account. God sees beyond our masks of respectability and imagined goodness and invites us to receive the pardon He would give to all who say a double ‘yes.’ ‘Yes, I’m the sinner’ and ‘yes, Jesus is my Saviour.’
There is no greater love than this. ‘Love to the loveless shown’ not only describes that historic event of Calvary’s cross but echoes the experience of all who by abandoning the false sentimental notion of personal goodness, find wonderful assurance deep in their hearts that they are loved so much by God that He treats them as if they were perfectly good. And having experienced this love, the Christian will seek, with God’s help, to be good in every area of their life, not in order to earn God’s favour, but to show forth their gratitude and desire to obey Him.