A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend and I roamed the shelves of Books-A-Million. (Yes, we actually had a date in a bookstore). All went well until I spotted some merchandise. But not just any merchandise. Much to my disappointment, I saw action figures and other items based upon an individual who—in my opinion—shouldn’t be celebrated.
My frustration must’ve been obvious. Eventually, my girlfriend asked me who the publicized woman was. The woman found in action figure form. And I responded, “She’s a very horrible person.” Out loud. With a touch of fury. And a whole lot of regret.
There’s something strange about judging another person. Producing shame and bitterness in our hearts. Probably because we’re commanded not to judge. Jesus says, “‘Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you’” (Matt. 7:1-2 ESV).
To take it a step further, Jesus says, “‘Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye’” (v. 3-5 ESV).
After publicly criticizing the celebrity, I desperately tried to make up for it. I was still apologizing to my girlfriend in the Chick-fil-A line. Not because she was mad at me. But because I was ashamed. I had failed to show the grace of God. I had succumbed to unwholesome speech (see Eph. 4:29). I had been quick to speak and slow to listen (see James 1:19-20). I had neglected to tame my tongue (see James 3:8-10). And somehow, I had looked past the log in my own eye.
While lingering in the Huntington Mall, I was reminded of a painful reality: I’m not a good person. And neither are you.
That’s what the Bible says. The apostle Paul writes, “‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one’” (Rom. 3:10-12 ESV).
This can be difficult for Christians to see. After all, we’re justified by the blood of Jesus Christ (see Rom. 3:24-25). And rightly so. But if we think our justification makes us “good people” (in that we always know what is best and live accordingly), we’re making ourselves judges. And when people fail to meet our standards, we’re quick to call them “bad people.” As if we’re any better. And this is likely the reason why so many Christians gossip.
Consider what Jesus says to the rich young ruler who approaches Him in Luke 18. “And a ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone’” (v. 18-19 ESV).
Jesus was challenging the definition of “good.” At the time, the religious leaders were considered to have things together. And in Matthew 5:20, Jesus said, “‘For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (ESV). And as we know today, that sufficient righteousness can only be found through the blood of Christ on Calvary.
We live in a world that seems to believe being a “good person” is the epitome of human experience. But unlike other religions, Christianity isn’t based upon our works. Instead, it’s based upon the work of Jesus Christ. And in Him alone do we find right standing with God.
Here’s the deal: I don’t agree with the morals of the celebrity-turned action figure in Books-A-Million. I don’t believe she knows Jesus. I don’t believe she honors the Bible. And I stand upon that. Because it’s a matter of life and death. But the next time I find a person whom I strongly disagree with, I hope to take a moment and think about Jesus before calling him or her “a very horrible person.” And I encourage you to do the same. Because when we do, our gossip subsides. Our judgments cease. Our harsh attitudes die. And we find ourselves in awe at the majesty and perfection of Christ alone.
I’m not a good person.
Isaiah Pauley is passionate about sharing Jesus in a simple way. Follow the journey of this young pastor at www.isaiahpauley.com, on Facebook at Isaiah Pauley Page, or on Instagram @isaiahpauley.