Funerals tend to come in clusters.
I can go months without conducting or attending a funeral, and then suddenly I have four in a period of a week.
During my last cluster of funerals, I heard again something which I often hear at funerals. “He was so generous.” “She was so kind.” “He was such a good person.”
At each of the funerals I attended, I agreed. They were all wonderful Christian people. They were loving parents and faithful friends. They were good people.
But then, as I prepared for my sermon this Sunday, I read something Jesus said which made me pause. In Mark chapter ten, Jesus told a rich young man, “No one is good – except God alone” (Mark 10:18).
Do you consider yourself a good person?
If we are honest with ourselves, that is a complicated question. I think we all consider ourselves good people, but then again, we also have the dark recesses of our hearts and dark closets of our pasts which we hope nobody sees or remembers at our funerals.
Generally, though, we consider ourselves “good” people because, well, we haven’t killed anybody. We aren’t pedophiles or prostitutes. We aren’t corrupt politicians or Neo-Nazis.
We consider ourselves good people because “good” in our world today is a relative term.
It’s kind of like the word “rich.” Do you consider yourself rich? That depends on your perspective. Compared to Bill Gates or Elon Musk, we are not rich. But then again, the poorest of us here in the United States are still richer than 90% of the world. Most people in South America, Africa and Asia would look at us as if we were Bill Gates and Elon Musk – because “rich” is a relative term.
In our world today, “good” has become a relative term. We like to consider ourselves “good” people because we look at all the “bad” people out there and we are better than them. We readily admit that we aren’t perfect, but we consider ourselves generally good people.
God, however, has a different definition of “good.”
When God commands us to be good, he isn’t saying, “Be better than most people.” He is saying, “Be perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Good for God is not a relative term. Good enough is never good enough for him.
And that bothers some people. They look at God as if here were an overbearing parent with unreasonable expectations of their child. For our world, to expect perfection is simply unfair. Good enough should be good enough for God. A God of love should be happy with us being relatively good.
And we too fall into that way of thinking because we fail to see or forget how bad, ugly, and hurtful our sins are. Every sin is dirty. Every sin is harmful. Every sin deserves hell.
Thankfully we have a good God.
In fact, he was so good and gracious that he sacrificed his Son to suffer our punishment in our place. Our God is so good, he forgives us our bad and treats us as if were good.
In the end, I don’t argue with people at funerals when they say someone was good. By the world’s standards that is true. But then I try to point them to God’s definition of “good.” Then I try to help them see and trust the truth to which we cling as Christians:
Our God is good.