Many of us post memes and share articles about the great things people have done, the most recent I’ve seen being an analysis of the great things George Michael did secretly like giving money to charities and helping people pay for IVF treatment and so on. They give this (or a similar) message: “Those who are not christians do such great things and are far more “christian” than many christians I have seen”. The implication given is that they are more deserving of a place in heaven, and it is both expressed and implied that they “deserve” to be in heaven BECAUSE of the good works they have done. What bothers me is that by sharing such posts and memes, we are perpetuating and encouraging a message that it is the good you do which is what make you a christian.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I am NOT saying that our actions don’t matter, nor am I belittling the tremendous things people like George Michael have done, such acts should be commended and celebrated. However, we must not misrepresent the gospel by promoting the view that it is by such things that we will find a right relationship with God – that’s what the Pharisees did.
After all if it is solely our actions which determine our suitability to go to heaven, what about people who don’t have the emotional, time or material resources to do any good works at all, who are running on empty and it is all they can do to get through each day. What hope is there for them if their good deeds are the measure?
let’s not forget or neglect such texts as:
- Ephesians 2:8 “it is by GRACE you have been saved, by faith … NOT BY WORKS …”, or
- Isaiah 64:6 “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;” and
- Romans 10:9 “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
We can and must call out christians who do not care for their fellow man, after all, Jesus talks about sheep and goats in Matthew 25 (read it) and James says in James 2:14-26 that our faith is worthless if it is not seen in our actions, but when people who have no regard for God and by all the other indicators in their lives are about as far from “christian” as you can get do good things, let’s not define them as christian – they are not, nor would they want to be.
Our challenge then, is to call people to faith and repentance and to living righteous and upright lives without giving the message either explicitly or implicitly that it is their actions which make them “christian”.