How is it that Christianity is a religion whose main introduction to the world is summed up in this statement? You’re not good enough and nothing you do is good enough for God.
What other relationship thrives under the attitude of “You aren’t good enough for me.” Is that how a heavenly Father reintroduces himself to long lost children? Is that even what Jesus told people? You are not good enough.
He said unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. But were the Pharisees really that righteous? Was Jesus saying they were so righteous? Everybody thought those guys considered themselves righteous, so why would Jesus hold them up as a model that must be exceeded?
How do we know Jesus wasn’t actually being sarcastic and tongue in cheek. Sometimes humor and irony is lost in translation and print. Because honestly that’s the only way the statement makes any sense. It’s kind of like saying the only way your getting in my party is if your nicer than a pit bull. Maybe Jesus was really saying that average folks without religious credentials are more righteous than those pompous, sneering hypocrites.
Was Jesus really dooming us all to exclusion? Or was He shattering the absurd standards and obnoxious attitudes that had been held over people for so long.
Republican Evangelical Christianity has, I fear, become like the Pharisees. We have allowed ourselves to think that God is telling everybody they aren’t good enough. On the one hand we criticize the world for it’s lack of goodness and then when they do act good according to our standards guess what? That’s still not good enough.
Why did Jesus use a Good Samaritan to exemplify goodness? Because Samaritans were not in the right camp at all. They were outsiders and foreigners. They were THOSE people who weren’t good enough.
We think the gospel message begins with convincing people how unworthy they are and that somehow they will take that as a wake up call. But what we don’t realize is that the message of “You’re not good enough” was never really meant for Gentiles or Pagans. It was meant for Pharisees and Sadducees. Look at how Paul spoke on Mars Hill. Find where he told those philosophers they were not good enough. That message was completely absent. We have been guilty of trying to get people to take a medicine God never prescribed to them. All we are getting is negative reactions and very little healing.
Furthermore all the passages about not being saved by works and salvation by grace seemed to be a prescription written for Gentiles who were being seduced by Judaizers.
When the law was being trusted it was then works were getting busted. But Jesus and the Apostles never looked at unJewish people and said, “stop trying to work your way to heaven.” It was not even relevant. The parable of the good Samaritan seems to acknowledge that there are non-religious people in the world who are doing good for their fellow man for no other reason than the love in their heart. But this is where hard core Evangelical doctrine of Augustinian origin would say, “But their works are filthy rags to God!” Really? Jesus didn’t act like the Samaritans works were filthy rags. He seemed to indicate God was actually pleased with what he did. But let’s make a careful distinction. God never said their works were filthy rags. He said their righteousness was filthy rags. This was about the religious things they were doing to compensate for the evil things they were doing. Had the Pharisees not been blowing silver trumpets with one hand and exploiting widows with the other, but instead devoting themselves to poor and the needy, Jesus would have never had a problem with them.
And speaking of having a problem with people, it seems like this not good enough mentality has put Christianity at odds with so many people. Have you ever noticed how Modern Christianity is always on one side of some Vs binary? Like a boxing match it’s the Christians vs the gays, or the Christians vs the Atheists. Why is it Jesus never went around trying to set up matches between himself and people who weren’t good enough? Don’t get me wrong, the Pharisees were always trying to get Jesus into a vs position.
But the only time Jesus debated anyone was when they started the debate. Otherwise Jesus just seemed to be trying to have a transformative conversation. Yet in Christianity today we are more interested in debating opponents than having transformative Christlike conversations. We are more interested in the knockout punch that wins an argument. Go to YouTube and see how many videos there are of Christians debating atheists trying to prove God and prove the bible. It’s not a mission anymore it’s a sport. And thousands of people flock into the stands to watch and cheer and jeer and throw their venom laced statements of faith into the mix.
Evangelical Christianity has in large part become a cultural warring faction. There are the ones who run to the fight then there are the one’s who don’t engage unbelievers but sit in the stands and whisper their derision towards unbelievers to one another in secret.
When we send the message “Your not good enough,” The world does not hear God convicting them as much as they hear us condemning them from a place of self righteousness. And let’s face it, keeping people feeling like they are never quite good enough is a powerful religious control tool. Would God really build something so fraught with potential for abuse into the gospel message for the world?
What if we tried a solidly biblical approach that actually showed the kind of respect Paul showed on Mars Hill. It goes like this:
God wants you to become convinced of three things.
1 He is real
2 He loves you
3 You need Him.
What if that was the gospel to modern unbelievers? I wonder if we could at least get in the door with a message like this? It sure seems to have a lot more possibility than:
1 You are a sinner
2 Nothing you do is good enough
3 Because of this God is reserving a place for you in hell.
Some people really like that message because they have been convinced that being obnoxious is the same thing as being courageous. Courageous Christians speak the truth and are willing to suffer for it. True, but Peter told us that there is no honor in suffering for trouble that we have created. He said to suffer for doing good was honorable.
Look at Jesus. He did not go around confronting people over their sins. He went around healing people and as a result people loved him. This was the catalyst, however, for his suffering. The good he did made enemies of the Pharisees. They were jealous of the love he enjoyed. They were jealous of the divine touch on his life. They knew he was superior to them in every way and it drove them crazy. While everyone else saw Jesus as a leader worth following, the Pharisees saw competition. They were never going to follow because they had to be better than anyone.
I’m not saying there aren’t unbelievers like that today. But let’s make sure that’s exactly what we are dealing with before we just hit them with the “You’re not good enough” message. Instead of majoring on that point as the universal gospel message why don’t we look at the gospel that was taken beyond Jerusalem and Judea.