What is a Good Person?

by site founder, Connie Rice

What is a good person? Well – I guess that depends on your definition of good. It seems that for the most part, we tend to think of ourselves as basically a good person. However, it also seems rather easy for us to find fault (and many times point it out) in other people. Dictionary.com defines good as “morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious: a good man”. Is the determination of who is good really subjective (“existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought”)? When individuals (or a culture) move away from objective views (“not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts”), and some words are used with different meanings so they are no longer common, understanding and values can disintegrate. A common language is crucial to understanding. One example is the word “tolerance” (which has always been an accepted virtue in our culture). It was historically understood as showing respect for people with whom we disagree. In recent years, the term has been equated with approval and acceptance, which it had never previously meant.

“Language is the expression of ideas, and if the people of one country cannot preserve an identity of ideas they cannot retain an identity of language.”

Noah Webster, author of the first American dictionary

“The principles of all genuine liberty, and of wise laws and administrations are to be drawn from the Bible and sustained by its authority. The man therefore who weakens or destroys the divine authority of that book may be assessory [original spelling from quote] to all the public disorders which society is doomed to suffer.”

Noah Webster, author of the first American dictionary

For an increasing number of people in America, the standard for good and truth is based on their opinions – which does not offer an objective standard that would be true for all people everywhere. Since each of them believes that their opinion = truth, they become less tolerant of those with differing views – even to the point of considering those holding different views to be evil and that their views are dangerous and should be shut down. What has set America apart for hundreds of years is its freedoms, and that those freedoms are granted by our Creator rather than man so that man cannot take them away. The lack of civil discourse, respect, and true tolerance for those with differing opinions endangers those very freedoms. Our universities have historically been a place for the discussion and open debate of all ideas and students were encouraged to hear all sides and determine which were the best arguments. Over the last 60 years, the opposite has developed and open debate has even brought protests. For those who believe the Bible is true, the standard for good is set not by individuals or by man collectively, but by God, and would apply equally to all of humanity. Jesus spoke about who was good:

“‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother’.”

Mark 10:18-19

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,through the shedding of His blood – to be received by faith.”

Romans 3:23-25a

The opposite of good is generally considered to be evil or bad. Dictionary.com defines evil as “morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked: evil deeds; an evil life”. It defines the term “wicked” as “evil or morally bad in principle or practice; sinful; iniquitous: wicked people; wicked habits.” In digging further, the root of sinful is sin – for which the meaning is a “transgression of divine law: the sin of Adam; any act regarded as such a transgression, especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle”.

“Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.”

Ecclesiastes 7:20

“Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to Your love remember me, for You, Lord, are good.”

Psalm 25:7

Some might say that they don’t believe in God or His moral standard of perfection, so are therefore not concerned. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to consider a few questions:

  • “How do you explain the existence of your own innate sense of morality, sense of right and wrong, sense of good and evil?”
  • “In rejecting God, how do you explain the existence of evil?”
  • “In rejecting God, how do you explain the existence of good?”
  • “What if you’re wrong and stand before a holy God in judgment using His definitions and His standard?

Perhaps the question that we should be asking is, does our opinion on the subject even matter in light of the One who created us who has communicated that He is also the sole determinant of what is good and what is evil.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

1 John 1:8

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? ‘I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve’.”

Jeremiah 17:9-10

Repeatedly in the Old Testament God warned His people and “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (subjective). Each time, judgment followed. One person may believe that it’s wrong to lie while another person may make justifications for why it’s okay for them to lie (although it is ironic when those same people get upset if someone lies to them).

“Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Judges 17:6 & Judges 21:25

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

James 1:22

Jesus was poignant about the subject. His love and compassion was and is for everyone and Jesus made that clear both by His Words and His sacrificial actions, even to the point of death. However, He had some pretty harsh words aimed at church leaders at times. This should serve as a warning to all Christ followers. Our sinful nature can cause us to think we have overcome sin’s hold on our lives because we have access to the Holy Spirit, but we may just be deceiving ourselves.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

Jeremiah 17:9

“Again Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, ‘Listen to Me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’ After He had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples asked Him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ He asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean). He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person’.”

Mark 7:14-23

Another question to ask is – if according to the Bible, we are all sinful beings and have evil in our hearts, why would Jesus come to earth (fully God and fully man) and live the perfect life we never could and then allow Himself to be mocked, tortured, and killed to pay the price for our sins – so we could stand before a holy God and be accepted instead of judged? This, my friend, is the extent of His love for each person.

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Hebrews 12:1-3

In view of our sin problem that separates us from a holy God whose standard is perfection and considering what Jesus has already done for us, what should our response be?

“We love because He first loved us.”

1 John 4:19

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”

1 Chronicles 16:34

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and We will come to them and make Our home with them’.”

John14:23

So – what is a good person? Each of us have our own opinions, but according to the definition given by our Creator – there are no good people because His standard is perfection. God created a perfect world and offered Adam and Eve everything they needed, including beauty, sustenance, and His own presence. He also gave them the gift of free will to choose whether or not to obey and then gave them one command – not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They succumbed to temptation and disobeyed that single command, bringing sin, evil, and death into the world. We now live in a broken world, but God has promised to restore it and conquer evil once and for all. I cannot remember where I read it, but was reminded about something in Scripture with an insight that I had not realized on my own – that the Tree of Life was in the garden too and available to them (eternal life), and they were deceived into thinking they could be like God and chose the knowledge of good and evil over living forever and living with God. God offers us the same through Jesus Christ, who overcame both sin and death with his death and Resurrection and offers us the power to overcome sin in this life and to live forever in His presence.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

1 Peter 1:3-9

My hope is that no more people will be deceived into thinking that their opinions = truth, that there is no standard for all of humanity, that they can be god in their lives, or that they know better than God so they can make a better choice, trusting in Jesus so they too can have the hope of salvation – enjoying a relationship with their Creator right now and for eternity.

© Constance Rice 2020

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