Being a Christian is not the same as being nice

Being a Christian is not the same as being nice

Christians tend to be nice people. That’s a good thing, of course! But it does mean that many people make the mistake of thinking that being nice or good in some moral sense makes you a Christian. That is a very long way from the truth.

In fact, the truth is pretty much the opposite. Christians are people who know that we are not good. We know that in comparison to God’s expectations and laws, every single person is bad. We are bad people who need someone to help us or we would be in big trouble with God. Jesus offers that all who trust in Him will be right with God; they will be saved by the goodness of Jesus instead of their own goodness.

Once someone becomes a Christian, they then work at honouring and pleasing God in all aspects of their lives. They try to love God and others as best they can. This is why Christians tend to be nice; we have been rescued, we know how much we are loved, and we try to love the One who saved us.

Understanding this distinction between being nice and being Christian was a key moment in my Christian life. I am sure people had told me this before, but it was at a youth conference when I was 17 that I finally got it. I was a nice kid, a good student, and kind of assumed that this also meant I was a Christian. But that’s not it at all. Being a Christian is about trusting and following Jesus. Even nice people need Jesus; our own niceness or goodness might make us think we are OK with God when we are not.

No-one can be good enough for God. No-one can impress God by how nice they are to others, now polite they might be, or even how good their moral decisions are. Our effort at religious matters is also never going to be enough. It is not our efforts that make us saved; that is only the work of Jesus in our lives. We sometimes fool ourselves into thinking we must be OK with God because we compare well with some other people we know. Maybe God just expects us to be better than the average? No, God expects us to be perfect to be saved on our own merits. We need to compare ourselves to God’s standards, not other people.

Jesus consistently shows us that our goodness is not enough in how he acted in the Gospels. He welcomed a wide range of people who were outsiders and not seen as good by the religious leaders and the wider culture. He interacted with a Samaritan woman, tax collectors, prostitutes, and those with leprosy. At the same time, those who thought they were good were often condemned for their pride and failure to trust in Jesus.

All Christians are saved only by grace. We never deserve it, any of it.

Don’t forget this when you’ve been a Christian for a while. It is easy to shift into moralistic mode without meaning to. We might start to judge people for their sins rather than being keen to tell them about Jesus. We might start to rank ourselves against others in church rather than celebrating the fact that all of us are equal in God’s sight, all of us being saved sinners.

This is not a call to stop being nice or good. Christians should be distinctively different from the world around us in all kinds of ways! But do this for the right reasons. If you are a Christian, you should strive to serve Jesus with joy, which will lead to all kinds of good aspects in your life. Don’t do it thinking that God will be impressed and reward you for it, or to make yourself feel better than someone else.

We’re all undeserving people, far less good and nice than we’d like to believe. It is so good that we have a Saviour who knows this and died in our place.