It’s not at all uncommon to hear, “but she is such a good person” or “he was always so kind to everyone”. These and similar statements are made questioning, and often sincerely so, God’s justice in the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus alone. Although there’s much to unpack in that discussion, in Luke 18 we find a response directly from Jesus addressing this topic.
18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
There’s that word — “good” — Jesus knew what was coming.
20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Note here that the commandments Jesus lists first for this seeker are those that have to do with decent, moral living — the common law foundational equivalent of what makes any society function. Then Jesus goes much deeper — beyond that which is socially acceptable and right to the very crux of the matter. You see, it’s not just the rich young ruler who comes into the scope of this conversation — riches just happened to be his one thing.
There are many good people in the world for whom one thing stands between them and following Jesus. Good behavior alone is not the same as following Jesus. Indeed, good behavior does not inherit eternal life. Here, the good is truly the enemy of the best — so much so that it will only result in the worst.
In contrast, when the lawyer came to test Jesus in Luke 10, Jesus affirmed that he knew and declared the sum of it all.
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Our love for Jesus will show forth as the love of Jesus and that fruit won’t just be good fruit — it will be eternal.