Why I Don’t Believe Most People Are Good

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May 30, 2018

Genesis 6:5-9

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

This is the account of Noah and his family.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.

CONSIDER THIS

They say country music is three chords and the truth. I recently heard a song on the radio causing me to question this adage. The lead lines of the chorus (and also the title) are, “I believe most people are good.”

To that I say, “Tell Jesus.” Remember that time the young ruler greeted Jesus as, “Good Teacher?” Remember how Jesus responded? “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No-one is good, except God alone.” Mark 10:18. Somehow I can’t hear Jesus singing the tune Most People Are Good from the Cross.

So are most people bad? People are not good because they do good. Nor are they bad because they do bad. Here’s how I would put it. All people are sinners, which means all people are corrupt. We are broken. We are capable of doing really good things and unthinkably bad things. The problem with unhealed broken sinners is the way we break others. This can go unchecked, passed down and compounded from generation to generation. That’s what we find in Genesis 6.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time..

Yep, that’s what they were dealing with: Multi-generational sin and brokenness, unchecked, unhealed, passed down and compounded. It was bad. The chaos had returned with a vengeance. Into this dark chapter, we meet Noah and his family.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.

How does one family manage to go against the grain of the whole world? What was different about Noah and his family? He walked with God. Noah didn’t walk with God because he was somehow different than or more righteous than anyone else. Noah was righteous because he walked with God.

We get so easily deceived at this point. We think walking with God comes down to our efforts to be righteous; to be different from “those people.” We think our so-called good choices make us good. They don’t. This is called self-righteousness and honestly, it is just as bad as unrighteousness—maybe even worse. It is walking with God that makes us righteous. Righteousness is not measured by right behavior but by a much deeper wellness at the core of our soul. Righteousness comes not from being right “for” God, but from being right “with” God. True righteousness only comes “from” God.

And I must share some good news at this point. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10. 

Walking with God means learning to walk in the mercy of Jesus Christ. One of my every day idiosyncratic discipleship practices is to say a form of the Jesus Prayer every time I was up or down a flight of stairs. With each step I say the next word of the prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner.”

Over the years it has become a quite tangible way of walking with God. Interestingly, the more I walk with God, and the nearer I find myself to God, the more mercy I need. It would seem to be just the opposite. It’s not. As I have grown in my walk, I have added to the prayer, (which means I need about three flights of stairs to say the whole thing). It goes like this:

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a son.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a saint.

I find myself living in some dimension of all three at any given point. I call them my walking with God on the stairs prayers. And I commend the practice to you. Let me know how it goes.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.

THE PRAYER

Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. Thank you for telling us the truth, that no-one is good but God. Save me from the prideful deception of thinking I am good based what goodness I do. As well, save me from the shame filled deception that I am bad based on the bad things I do. Awaken me to the grace of Jesus Christ, who makes me righteous and who fits me to walk with God. Right here, Jesus. Right now Jesus. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. What do you think about human nature? Are people basically good?
  2. How do you understand the nature of the Gospel? Making good people better or bringing dead people to life?
  3. What do you make of this idea that we need more mercy to walk with God as a saint than we need as a sinner.

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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1 COMMENT

  1. As someone who’s been in recovery for 30 years, I agree wholeheartedly that there is always some sense in which my sin has to be laid at the feet of Mercy every day in every prayer. I am afraid many miss this assuming that people are basically “good.” To simply state sin or even hint at Original Sin is considered not only in bad taste by many in church (not to mention society) but is also called psychological or spiritual abuse. We need to daily reckon with sin and celebrate God’s mercy.

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