Good or Evil? Who Decides?

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Is it possible for someone to be a good person but not believe in Jesus? What if they couldn’t care less whether there’s a God in Heaven? Maybe they don’t even believe in a Heaven or a Hell.

Can that person be a good person, or are they evil through and through? What does it take to be classified as good? How bad must someone be to rate being called evil?

Is the dividing line between good and evil simply a matter of faith? Something like faith equals good and no faith equals evil?

We probably all know someone, or have heard of someone, who epitomizes evil. However, I don’t think it’s possible to find someone we all can agree is evil. Or good, for that matter.

For the sake of discussion, I’ll use Adolf Hitler as our example of evil. How can he be judged as evil? Because of his evil actions during World War Two. His attempt to exterminate the Jewish people was evil. In my book, anyway.

However, there are people in the world who would argue with me; and tell me Hitler was good!

Why would they say such a thing? Because Hitler also did some good! He was a great community organizer, rallying the German Nation in patriotic unity. He was also good for the German economy, for awhile, at least.

So, I can’t use his actions to determine if he was good or evil.

There must be a better way to decide.

Most people agree that Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi were good people. Mother Teresa is known for her ministry of compassion, while Mahatma Gandhi is known for his nonviolent leadership in India’s independence. Both were an inspiration to their countrymen, and the whole world.

But again, there are some who would disagree. Looking on the internet, I found a number of articles questioning both Mother Teresa’s and Gandhi’s integrity and character. It’s been said that the world’s second favorite mother wasn’t always ethical with her handling of the finances; millions and millions of dollars. Gandhi was a known racist, despising the black man his entire life.

I find it hard to believe like you. But I cannot say someone is good because they do good things.

What if we just made a rule, something like: whatever the majority believes is correct. If the majority believes someone or something is good, then it’s good. If evil, well, sorry but that’s the way it is.

So where do we go to find our majority? How many should be polled to create a correct assessment? Could the majority’s belief differ, if the polling data was gathered from different people groups, with different levels of income, and various age groups?

Is it safe to let society determine what is good or what is evil?

No. It is not.

Every human being is capable of doing good, or doing evil. Every one, without exception. So mankind really isn’t the one to determine good or evil.

Like it or not, there’s only one qualified to make the call. Believe it or not, there’s one who’s already made the call.

God.

You who don’t agree; do you know someone better qualified? Or are you saying there’s no such thing as good or evil? No God and no devil?

But back to my original question: is it possible for someone to be a good person but not believe in Jesus?

The answer is…

No.

A person may do tons of good things. They may find a cure for cancer, or broker peace in the Middle East. They could save the whales, the trees, and California’s budget problems; all good things.

But in order to BE good, a person’s innermost being must be good.

The standard, the benchmark for “good”, the only one who is good says:

“As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one. No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God. All have turned aside; together they have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless; no one does right, not even one! Their throat is a yawning grave; they use their tongues to deceive (to mislead and to deal treacherously). The venom of asps is beneath their lips. Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction [as it dashes them to pieces] and misery mark their ways. And they have no experience of the way of peace [they know nothing about peace, for a peaceful way they do not even recognize]. There is no [reverential] fear of God before their eyes”. (Romans 3:10-18 AMP)

None good, no not one. Sin, or a trespass against God, a neighbor, or even one’s self, disqualifies anyone from being good. It’s not the way he made us, but it’s how we turned out after the evil one deceived Eve. When Adam willingly, knowingly, took the fruit from Eve’s hand and took a bite.

God didn’t create us bad, and it’s not how he wants us to end up.

“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:22 – 3:26 ESV)

God has done something about man’s bad condition.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:12-17 ESV)

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23 ESV)

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ESV)

By faith in Jesus’ substitutionary work on the cross, along with his subsequent burial and resurrection, God begins a change in the believer’s heart. The old leaves, the new comes.

The good one (Jesus) gave his life for the bad one (me), so the bad one (me) might become righteous in God’s sight.

He makes us good. His Spirit gives us the power to resist evil, and do good.

It all boils down to this: doing good things is great. It’s commendable and great for the world. Good deeds should be applauded and encouraged. But doing good doesn’t change a bad heart. It has to be made new. Born again. Recreated in the image of good.

God’s standard of “good“.

Thank you for reading this post. Please comment, I’d love to hear what you think. For more posts and a weekly newsletter delivered to your email address, please go to http://eepurl.com/PaJK5 and sign up. Thanks.

8 Comments

  1. Greg van de Krol

    Jan, aren’t there crimes, like genocide, for which you can judge a person evil ENOUGH? Does it really matter whether Hitler ate his peas when his mother told him too? Why on earth do you conclude that Hitler’s actions cannot be used to determine if he was good or bad, just because he did one good thing in his life?! And why do you think someone can’t be a good person if they ever, even once did a bad thing?

    What if we were to apply this standard to your “good” book? The Bible has led people to condone slavery. The Bible has led parents to hit their children with sticks. The Bible has led people to harass, criminalize and murder homosexuals. “Green Eggs and Ham” has never done anything of these things, and therefore, by your own standard, deserves the appellation of the “Good Book” far more than the Bible.

    And did you ever think to apply this standard to your leader? Wouldn’t a god that did not command genocide be better than one who did? Wouldn’t a god who wasn’t so concerned about his imagine that he would kill children for disrespecting him? Is there any crime at all, that your god could commit that would make you stop thinking of him as “all good”? Taking part in the rape of children in his own home?

    It’s apparent that Christians have a two-faced sense of morality: one standard for us humans in which it is impossible for us to be good and one for their god, in which all he does is good.

    • Good questions, but unless we have the ability to think and understand things like God does, something’s cant be explained.

      However the heart is wicked without the life and nature of God.

  2. Greg van de Krol

    Jan, frankly that is a complete cop out. Christians have no problem understanding that killing children is wrong when they pass laws preventing women from getting abortions. But when your cult leader kills children, suddenly you have to be as smart as God to understand that it’s okay, some kids just needed killing.

    • Why do people think they must understand and agree with everything God does before they will even give him the time of day? They don’t treat anyone else like that. By the way, who’s your leader? And has he ever killed children? You may claim you’re the only leader you have, but everyone is led by someone. Seen or unseen.

      • Greg van de Krol

        Shouldn’t the standard that people set for their god be a bit higher than for everyone else Jan? In the Abrahamic religions, following the patriarch’s example, we should be ready to do anything god tells us without question, be that kill our own children or fly planes into buildings. Before you agree to had over the moral responsiblity for your actions to such an absolute ruler, shouldn’t you do at least a little due diligence first? I can’t ever recall voting for someone who killed children because they wanted to punish a parent, who can’t think of an better way for his favorite people to have a home than to kill and enslave everyone in sight, who expects everyone to join his party or else he’ll have them locked in a concentration camp…

        This may have been typcial for despots 4000 years ago and so we shouldn’t be surprised that the bible’s authors created their god with this imagine. But the world has grown tired of tyrants and we are slowly, but surely picking them off one by one. Yahweh should share the fate of Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Mubarak and the rest of the middle eastern dictators.

        • Man likes to think he always knows best, and has everything figured out. Picking off the tyrants, one by one, eh? I pray your eyes will be opened and you see the real tyrant who’s pulling your strings. He’s the one the “concentration camp” was created for. “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:3 – 4:4 ESV)

          Greg, if you will honestly and humbly read the word of God, you just may discover you’ve been blaming the wrong person all these years.

      • Greg van de Krol

        Are you referring to the devil? Can’t you explain away anything you don’t like or fear by blaming it on a boogeyman? And since you couldn’t bring yourself to say Hitler was evil because some people have pointed out that he might have done some good things, what do you say to all the good things the word of God says Lucifer did? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2011/12/10-best-good-guy-lucifer-memes/

        As far as me reading the Bible, where do you think I’m getting these accounts of Yahweh’s atrocities? Reading the Bible “honestly”, i.e. not ignoring things that don’t fit with the group imagine most American Christians have built up in their heads is the biggest producer of ex-Christians out there. You should have ripped out all those passages with Yahweh proudly bragging of his crimes when you had a chance. Or better yet, you could have left it in Latin so that you pastors could better pick and choose only the flattering bits to pass on the dumb sheep without them stumbling upon acts of child murder and genocide.

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