It’s not about being nice

It’s not about being nice

The Pharisees were the serious religious people of their day. They took morality seriously, they had the utmost respect for the law, and they were part of God’s historic chosen people. In other words, they thought they were the good guys. And so did a lot of other people. Yet, in Matthew 12, after a confrontation with Jesus over an exorcism, they are told something shocking. The people of Nineveh in Jonah’s day, and the Queen of Sheba in Solomon’s day, would be OK in the final judgement while they would not be.

How could this be true? How could the people of Nineveh, the city known world-wide for its wickedness, be better off than serious religious Jewish people? How could the Queen of Sheba, a foreign leader, be better off than the good law-abiding Pharisees? It’s because being right with God is not about the things many people expect it to be about.

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This means that growing up in the church is also no guarantee of being OK with God. Just being in a family where your parents love Jesus is not enough. You need to understand that Jesus is the only way to be saved and put your faith in him.

No-one is saved by God because of their gender or status in society. In the time of Jesus, many looked down on women as less important than men. Their evidence was not accepted in courts of law, and all of the important political positions were held by men. Yet Jesus placed the Queen of Sheba ahead of the Pharisees in God’s ranking. This shows that your gender or your status is not what matters most. Jesus welcomes all who come to him in repentance and faith. Just because you are someone important and respectable does not mean you are fine with God.

No-one is saved by God by keeping the law or being nice. The Pharisees thought that keeping the law was what mattered most, yet the law pointed to Jesus. If they kept the law but rejected Jesus, that meant they missed the most important part of the puzzle. It would be hard to argue that the repentant people of Nineveh were good or nice, but they were saved through God’s grace. We never earn our way in through our niceness of goodness or obedience.

I know this full well. I grew up in church and was good and nice. I just kind of assumed I would be OK with God. It took quite a while before I was shaken up to understand that being nice and being Christian are not the same. If you are mild-mannered and respected, of course that is not a bad thing. But being saved is due to repentance and faith. A nice person assumes they are OK; a Christian knows they are not and that they need Jesus.

Being OK with God is all about coming to Jesus. We are all tempted to think we are OK because of what we do, what family we belong to, or how nice we are. Don’t look in the wrong place and feel secure like the Pharisees when you are not. The only way you are fine with God is trusting in Jesus.