Does being a Christian have anything to do with being a goody-goody?
“Why do you call me good ?” Jesus answered. “No one is good — except God alone.
I remember going to church as a kid, looking up at the preacher and thinking, “Oh man! I’m glad I’ll never be a preacher because you’ve either got to be really good or make everyone think you are.”
Next my eyes would glide over to the various folks sliding into their pews. A few I thought, took God pretty seriously as evidenced by the personal Bibles tucked under their arms. “Oh, geez!” I remember thinking, “I don’t want to be like those people because they are either really good or they want me to think they are…which is more than likely the case because I don’t think anyone is really that good.”
Years later something happened to me and the dormant seed that was planted in me at my salvation began to grow when it was suddenly and inexplicably watered by the Holy Spirit. Without one drop of drama, God changed my heart, and suddenly I knew that I belonged to God. Just as instantly I wanted to read the Bible and I became conscious that, in my heart, I wanted to please Christ. But, like the apostle Paul said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”1 My husband noticed that I’d changed, and he picked right up on the fact that though I now openly talked about God and actually liked to read the Bible, my behavior often didn’t sync with the concept of a Christian. “I thought that you were going to be sweet now,” he’d sometimes say.
He had a good point because now I was conscious of all the things that I did that had never bothered me before, but now I didn’t like them. They no longer felt right or comfortable. One of those “things” was cussing and … sometimes I could rip it!
This really came front and center stage about six years ago. I’d purchased a 32-foot RV because I love to camp. One early spring weekend I took my little boy with me for my camper’s maiden voyage. We left my husband at home because he does not like to camp. He prefers room service.
As we drove out of our drive, I had this cussing thing on my mind. I told my son that from now on, if he heard me cuss I’d pay him five dollars a pop. “Okay.” He grinned, sitting with perfect posture, properly belted in the passenger or “co- pilot” seat of my car. We had camper in tow, headin’ down the road.
It was pretty late when we pulled into the camp ground. There were only a few other campers scattered here and there. I figured we could find a good spot and sure enough we did. “Position A” I’ll call it sat right next to the lake tucked far away from anyone else. Framed by big, old trees that were popping out their first green leaves of spring, the site also contained a picnic table, a clean deep fire pit, water and electrical hookups. A soft, warm breeze blew off the lake.
“John” I instructed, “Get out and direct me into the camp site while I back this trailer in.”
My little boy, only seven years old at the time, jumped out of the car and walked behind the camper. In the rear view mirror I could see him motion with his hands for me to back up, just like he’d seen the guys at the service station do. “Come on back Mom.” He said. Slowly I backed up.
“Mom,” he said immediately. “You need to go that- a- way” and he pointed the direction he meant.
Obligingly I turned the wheel the way I thought “that- a- way” was.“Not that- a- way” he yelled. “That a- way” and to press his point he pumped his little arm and finger in the direction he wanted me to go. Well I hadn’t accounted for the mirror to switch everything into opposites so I made some mental adjustments, pulled the car up, turned the steering wheel a different way, and proceeded to move backwards.
“Mom. You just jumped the concrete curb on the side of the camper space.”
“Well *&^%$Y!” I blurted.
“You owe me five bucks, Mom .”
“Why don’t you pay as much attention to your job, which is seeing that I get backed up correctly, as you do to your wallet?” I snapped. In the rear view mirror I think I saw him smile.
The sun was going down pretty fast by now, and it was getting harder and harder to see.
“Just pull the car up, then go straight back real slow,” my little boy instructed me like a pro.
“I hope he knows what he’s talking about,” I remember thinking. “I pushed the gear into drive, bounced back over the concrete curb thing, moved up and straightened up, then switched into reverse and slowly moved back. “I can’t see well.” I complained.
“If you want this spot, you’ve got to get the camper parked back in here,” his voice of reason reminded me.
I continued to do my best as I watched my mirrors and John’s signals. Up and back. Up and back. Up and back. Every moment the sun was moving lower, and my vision was growing dimmer. Meanwhile John’s voice grew more emphatic and his signals more dramatic. No longer reminiscent of the service station guy, they now looked more like the signal operators on the flight deck of the movie Top Gun.
Once I heard him yell, “Are you even listening to me ?” That was just before my rear wheel jumped the fire pit, and I had to thrust the gear into four wheel drive to drag the camper loose. By this time we were up to 30 bucks and counting.
To make a long and wickedly revealing story short I ended up paying that little turkey $55! There we sat in my car, in the dark, my new trailer jack-knifed and dirty behind us. Exasperated, exhausted and no closer to being parked in my space than when I’d started, I carefully counted out the cash under the attentive eyes and outstretched hand of my son. Remorse and guilt beat down on me. I mean after all, I’d just led my child ̶ an innocent little lamb of God ̶ on his way to wealth through the wickedness of my tongue!
Oh well … all’s well that ends well. We finally left the park and drove into the back parking lot of a huge truck stop. “John,” I explained, as I turned off the car and we stepped into the camper “one of the neatest things about camping is that you can pull in almost anywhere and go to sleep. See,” I showed him, “We’ve got food and water, and I have a generator so just about anywhere can be our home for the night.”
“Yeah. This is cool, Mom!” he admitted as he crawled into his sleeping bag, pulled back the corner of the curtain and watched the big trucks move into the lot or back on the highway unaware that they were being watched.
“John.” I whispered. “I am so sorry that I cussed like that. Mama is so sorry, not just because it is a bad example for you, but because acting that way makes God sad.”
“That’s OK Mom ,” he grinned as he clutched the wad of ones, fives and tens in a hand that he’d been securing beneath the bed roll. He counted the money, then looked up. “Boy, Mom . You’re still all red and sweaty from trying to get the camper backed up. Really, don’t worry about it. This has been one of the most fun days of my life!”
So, I’ve written all that to say this: Christianity is all about the heart and only God knows our hearts. Still, sometimes in our ignorance or arrogance we believe we can be good enough to earn or justify God’s approval. When we think we see that “goody-goody” tendency in another it nauseates us, because we know, or at some point we have to learn, that on our own, we can never be good enough. The Truth is only God is good2 and the Bible tells us that though we will become like Christ,3 it is up to God to get us there.
1 Romans 7:15 NIV
2 Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19
3 Hebrews 12:2; I Thessalonians 5:24