“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. – Matthew 6:2
There was a man in a ditch. He was beaten, robbed, and had a flat tire. A homosexual man stopped and treated his wounds, gave him some money and went on. A Muslim man later came by. He also stopped and fixed the flat tire. Then came the “good Christian.” He stopped as well. He asked the man if he was okay. When he found the man to be well provided for, he patted himself on the back for stopping. He then went and told the local paper what he had done and the headlines soon read, “Good Christian cares for men stuck in ditches.” He tweeted, “Humbled today to help a man stuck in ditch #payitforward.” He made a selfie with the man and posted it to his Facebook and received 200 likes and 20 shares. He went and bought himself a latte to thank himself for being such a “good Christian.”
I must admit it was the recent personal touting of this label “good Christian” that has my wheels turning this morning. In this instance, this individual applied it to himself. However, I have to also observe as a pastor and fellow Christian, I am certain I have applied such a label to more than one individual, maybe in conversation and maybe at a funeral. At my worse I have probably applied it to myself in the murky depths of my own heart.
It is important to note the term “Christian” neither deserves nor needs the qualifier, “good.” Those who are true followers of Christ know this. We know there is “none righteous, no not one” and he who says “he has no sin makes [God] out to be a liar.” We know that all of our righteousness is “as filthy rags” but we are compelled to them just the same because of the thankfulness in our hearts of what Christ has accomplished for us.
You see, this term “Christian” was first used derisively against Jesus’ followers (find it in Acts 11:26). It basically means, “little Christ.” That’s a lot to live up to and it is a beautiful label. We should observe those who were first called “Christians” were called Christians. They did not call themselves Christians, let alone, “good Christians.”
In the last two millennia, the term has come to describe those people who ascribe to the historic confessions of the “Christian” faith. So it helps us identify a particular faith group. However, the term has also seen overuse and disuse by people who consider themselves Christians culturally who do not understand what it means to be born again or even see a need for God to forgive his or her sins. Another term, “evangelical” has also fell on hard times. This term was once used to describe people who understand they were indeed born again and need God’s forgiveness through Christ’s work on the cross, but now it seems it can mean anything someone wishes in to mean. Of all things, true evangelical Christians are not a voting bloc. They are Christ’s ambassadors on earth speaking life with convictional kindness to a lost and dying world.
At the end of the day, “good Christian” is an oxymoron. The greatest problem with such a phrase is that it implies good works have anything to do with qualifying oneself as a Christian. Followers of Christ know that none of us qualify. It is by God’s mercy and grace we are awakened to follow Him. And as Christ said, the world will know who we are by our love and if we keep his commandments. Rarely will someone who goes on primetime TV to speak of his good Christianity be found loving others and keeping the commandments of Christ. Let us be careful as followers of Christ that we are not too quick to feel good about ourselves and that we never rush to tell others how good we are, because we know we are not.
12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. – 1 Corinthians 3:12 -13