I am not a good person

Wrapped woman.jpg

It's quite the slap in the face to say that about ourselves, isn't it? I've always regarded myself as a good person: even though I made mistakes, I sincerely tried to do my best by others.

So what’s changed?

As a Christian, I believe what the Bible says is true. This means all of it: I can’t just pick and choose the parts that appeal—I need to buy the lot.

As a new Christian, the Bible reads like it’s written in a foreign language. So.

Living according to the Bible is a complete about turn from the way I’ve been living my life. I was in charge of my life. I decided on my standards and boundaries, and defined my right and wrong. I tried hard.

The thing is, no matter how hard I tried, I could never be a good person. Because of one thing…

Sin. The Bible says quite a bit about it.

As it turns out, I’m not alone in being sinful. We’re all guilty of it:

Romans 3:23 | All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 

Romans 6:12 | Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 | Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.

1 John 3:4 | Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.

1 John 1:8 | If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:10 | If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

It’s hard to accept this about ourselves: we are all sinners. Does reading this make you feel defensive? It’s difficult to consolidate these words to the lives we try to lead. It feels so dire.

But before we go further, let’s look at the word itself.

Sin is derived from New Testament Greek: hamartano. A direct translation is ‘to miss the mark’. In the biblical perspective, sin is not only an act of wrongdoing but a state of alienation from God. (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, second edition)

Here are some examples of sin from the Bible:

Galatians 5:19-21 | 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

This reads like sin is reserved for serious transgressions: things that most of us don’t do. (Debauchery! Orgies! I had no idea such words would even be in the Bible.) But sin is more nuanced than that. A tiny set of examples of everyday sin include:

  • Desiring possessions, and using them to determine our worth (If I could buy that BMW, I’ll feel so much more confident)

  • Using our bodies and our sexuality to persuade (I’ll wear my push-up bra and flirt with him so he agrees to the deal)

  • Being jealous of others’ success (She’s been at the firm for five minutes. Why should she get the promotion before me?)

  • Overreacting with anger (Road rage! Insert a string of expletives and hand gestures here)

  • Holding on to other people’s wrongs to justify your actions (I had an affair because she was a loveless, inattentive wife. She drove me to it)

  • Taking what isn’t yours (I’m just going to take these pens home from work. I more than enough pay for them with the overtime I do)

But it’s not just about what you do do, it’s also about what you don’t do:

James 4:17 | If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

I read this and feel exhausted. And helpless. It feels like too big of an ask. Why would we choose to follow this seemingly impossible way of life if we can just keep doing our own thing? Considering I am sinful, am I even capable?

Because there is a promise.

Matthew 19:16-17 | 16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

1 Timothy 4:8 | For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

1 John 3:5 | But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.

1 John 1:9 | If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

James 1:12 | Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Matthew 18:8-9 | 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

So this is what I understand:

  • I am inherently sinful: I was born a sinner.

  • There is only one way to guarantee a spot in heaven for eternal life: to believe in and follow Jesus.

  • There is no such thing as a good person.

  • Being a Christian on earth is hard, but the consequences of not being one will be harder.

Which makes me think this:

  • I am not in control of my life, because I am not in control of my life.

  • It’s unfair to depend on others, such as a partner or a friend, for happiness. They are incapable of living up to the task and both parties will be let down.

  • In turn, this means that I also will never be good enough. Not for my husband, nor my parents, nor my children. I most definitely will never be good enough for God.

  • But God loves me so much, that he sacrificed his only son to pay the penalty for my sins. Sins that I will continue to commit, cementing the fact I am not worthy of his love nor an eternal life. Yet, the offer stands. All I need to do is believe in and follow Jesus.

  • This doesn’t seem fair, because it’s not.

I feel relief. Liberated. (A little bit hysterical, truth be told.) The pressure is off. Jesus has my back and once He returns, all of the pain and suffering I experience on earth will be no longer.

I’m in.