Would you rather be a good Christian or a child of God?

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 28, 2008

By DAVID STEPHENSON / Guest Columnist

“Good Christian” is an oxymoron.

Now, I did graduate from the University of Tennessee so I had to lookup “oxymoron” and it does not mean bovine idiot. It means “a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect.” (And yes Alabamians, I had to lookup “locution” and “incongruous” too.)

It is two contradictory terms that form an expression.

Some examples would be “deafening silence,” “cruel kindness,” “professional wrestling,” “Tennessee scholar,” “Auburn Tiger,” or “Alabama Elephants.”

I’ll go ahead and apologize since I’ll probably be kicked out of the state for bad preacher humor.

We hear that phrase all the time: “Jim is such a good Christian.” God wrote in Psalm 14, “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

He repeated himself again in Romans 3; “All have turned away, they have together become worthless there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Even with my education, I think “all” would be inclusive of Christians.

What some mean when they use “good Christian” is that someone is a good moralist or a very religious person, but good moralists and religious people didn’t get along with Jesus. And sometimes we mean it as a true compliment meaning a faithful servant. But all too often, we make Christianity a list of do’s and don’ts. We’re trying to make people nice instead of repentant. I fully embrace sanctification but we often place it before justification. That’s the difference between religion and the Gospel. Religion says, “I obey therefore I’m accepted.”

The Gospel says, “I’m accepted therefore I obey.”

Religion calls you “good” and the Bible calls everyone a “sinner.”

Religion says, “If you obey, God will love you. If you will stop drinking and sleeping around and doing these other things, then God will love you.” The Gospel says, “God has demonstrated his love to us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God loves you and because he does, you can love God and obey him. Religion says, “The world is filled with two kinds of people, good and bad.” How do you know good people? They are like me, of course, and bad people are not like me. The Gospel teaches that there are two kinds of people – repentant and unrepentant. Religion tells you, “It’s all about what you do, so do this and don’t do that.” Religious people love to make up lists because if I can follow my list then I contributed something and Jesus won’t get all the credit.

In our sinful hearts, we all want to be the hero of our own story. The Gospel is all about what Jesus has done. He is the only hero, the only one who gets all the glory. On the cross, he said, “It is finished.” He lived the life we could never live and died the death we should have died. He’s done everything and he says “trust in me and I’ll credit you with my perfect life.” So the question is, “would you rather be called ‘good’ or a ‘sinner saved by grace?'” I don’t want to ever stand before a Holy God and compare resumes with Jesus. Give that some thought today..