Are you good enough?
One of the most popular truisms of our time is the notion that “good people go to heaven.” Of course there are dozens of subtly different takes on this idea, ranging from complicated systems of karma to the simple axiom that you get what you pay for. But the core of the idea is the same: good people get rewarded, even in the afterlife.
The problem with the idea is that the definition of “good” is so blurred that one can never know if one is good enough. Where is the line? How much good must outweigh the “bad?” How much lawfulness outweighs lawlessness? And what happens if you were 49% good, but 51% bad? Does it seem fair to be 100% condemned if you weren’t 100% bad? And even then, what if just tipping the goodness scales (i.e. 50.1% “good”) still isn’t good enough? What if dwelling in the presence of God requires 100% goodness?
Well here’s the bad news — it does.
So here’s the good news — Jesus was.
And here’s the truth — good people don’t go to heaven. Forgiven people do.
In Luke 23:39-43, the thief that hung on the cross beside Jesus fully admitted his own guilt. Still, he hoped Jesus would have mercy on him. Unfortunately for him, he was long past any chance to be good enough for it, and he knew it. So when he asks Jesus to remember him, what would be a “just” response? What would have been fair for Jesus to say to him?
The Cross of Christ is scandalously unfair, in fact. Good thing it’s unfair in our favor. Just as Jesus’ crucifixion was unfair against him. But he was willing to endure that injustice so that he could give the thief the answer that we would all want to hear: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The glory of Easter is simply this — Jesus is the first born of the resurrection life, never to die again. And by his mercy and grace, he invites us to partake in it with him by faith.
- Have you ever heard that “good people go to heaven?” Where did you hear it? Did you believe it? How do you feel about that idea today?
- If we do have to be “good enough” to be saved, what does that imply about the character of God?
- Many people have heard the gospel before but choose not to believe and follow Jesus. What might be standing in their way? Is something standing in your way?
Imagine that you are the thief on the cross. There is no longer any denying that your mistakes have caught up with you. And Jesus is so close you can speak to him. What would you say?
A blessed Easter to you,