Naughty OR Nice? Which list are you on? It’s part of the old Santa Claus mythos, but it reflects a deep awareness that right and wrong, good and bad, matter. And that there are consequences for choosing one way or the other.
Let’s refine the question.
Q1: What does it mean to be good?
Q2: Why should I be good?
Q3: Am I a good person?
Q4: How do I become a good person?
As to the first question, Micah 6:8 is still one of the best answers.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. While more could be added to this, there is nothing that can be taken away.
Question Two: Why should I be good?
Well, other than getting presents from Santa Claus, each person must find a worthy answer to the question. Micah 6:8 is a start. The Lord requires it.
You may ask, why does the Lord require it? My number one answer is because the Lord is a good God, the Lord loves goodness, and the Lord had designed you to be like him (made in his image). See Exodus 33:19; Psalm 23:6; Psalm 116:12; Psalm 145:7; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9; 1 Peter 2:12, 15; and 1 Peter 3:11.
A second answer would go along the lines of the Golden Rule. I really don’t like it when others treat me badly, poorly, unkindly, meanly, rudely, roughly, harshly, etc. So, do unto others the way you would like them to do unto you. If I would like to be treated well (in good ways), then I should be good and do good.
A third answer is that I would greatly prefer to live in a good world. And my concern is that the surrounding culture is disintegrating in terms of its moral virtue.
The third question takes a great deal of self-awareness, and probably a bit of theology, if you are to have a meaningful answer.
Most of us have at least some difficulty answering that question honestly. I wrote an entire workbook of spiritual exercises (What’s Gone Wrong?) to help people gain a biblical perspective, and to have useful stepping stones for Spirit-led reflection. This question is not answered quickly or easily, but it is imperative that we answer it. Radical self-honesty leads to a deep longing for the grace, mercy, and the transforming power of God to deliver me from all that is wrong in me.
At the end of the movie Saving Private Ryan, an elderly Private Ryan asks his wife, “Have I been a good man? Tell me I’ve lived a good life.” You can see that clip here.
And the final question, well, that is simply why I am a Christian.
You see, we are all in the same predicament. We are all on that Naughty List. And you can’t just erase your name off that list and write it on the Nice List. You need intervention. You need a miracle.
I am not a good person. Or I am not nearly good enough. I find I can’t make myself be good on my own (see Romans 7:14-8:2 for the masterfully honest insight from the Apostle Paul). I need God to forgive my badness and to impart to me a new goodness.
Which is, of course, what Christmas is all about. Christmas is the Miracle you need. At least the start of that Miracle. A Savior is born. Christ the Lord. To save us from our sins. To return us back to the heart of a loving God. To restore in us the original goodness which we have lost.
This Christmas may you have exceeding joy as you experience the goodness of God toward you, and the goodness of the Lord growing inside you.
Then do as much good as you can in the name of Jesus.
Saved (and becoming a good person) by the Miracle of the Messiah,
Having the ability to empower and resource leaders to bear much fruit that lasts. Being a part of a team of friends and missional servants committed to changing the world.