One of the most common misconceptions about Christians is that they are good people trying to be better. Most people who are not churchgoers are such because they don’t think they are good enough to go. Even most Christians think like this. You get saved, and then you go to church. People who go to church are generally saved people who are now ready to work on their spiritual lives. Sick people outside; well people (and trying harder) inside. And all of this thinking is based on a certain level of expectation we put on believers. Now that you are a Christian you are expected to behave like one. And all of this is wrong-headed because it is not applying the law as God intended.
Just listen to these words from Paul to Timothy in the New Testament: “We know these laws are good when they are used as God intended. But they were not made for people who do what is right. They are for people who are disobedient and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful, who consider nothing sacred and defile what is holy.” (1 Timothy 1:8-9)
To put it another way: The laws of God are not to make good people better; they are to show bad people they are bad. The laws of God are there to show us how much we need a savior, but they are never the means by which we will become better people.
The law in the hands of a “good person” (we are speaking relatively here because there is no one good but God) is usually a bad thing. Good people trying to be better just can’t help becoming Pharisees when they get a hold of the law. It becomes a measuring stick, a qualifier, and a means of lording it over others.
The only good any of us ever possess is what comes as a result of faith – a righteousness we have nothing to do with because it comes from Christ. We can’t measure it, we can’t take credit for it, we are usually not even aware of it. Church, therefore, is not a place where good people try to be better; it is a place where bad people can’t believe they have it so good. I can’t help but think that if we were more like this, more people would feel welcome. At this point, our reputation as “good” people is driving people away. We need to put out a different message.