Doing Good or Not Doing Bad – what is good?

Christians don’t do bad things. At least they shouldn’t. If they do they should repent and make retribution. Repentance without retribution is not genuine. It is self-deception. If one robs his neighbour he cannot repent unless he restores what was stolen. Retribution is a must. He cannot keep the stolen goods.

When I illegally left communist Hungary I borrowed a high quality math book from the university library and brought it with me to Australia. You see, I was an atheist. However, about four years later I became a Christian and the stolen book became a burden. My conscience was restless. I had a stolen book in my property. I could not dump it into the bin, the book had to be restored to the rightful owner.

Six years later I finally managed to go to Hungary. I returned the book to the library. They could find no record that the book ever belonged to them. They might have already written it off and removed it from their catalogue. However, I left it with them. It was their property, not mine.

So when a Christian fails, repentance and retribution alone can bring peaceful mind and the experience of forgiveness.

However, such a Christian is not a good person, he is simply not bad. The good person is actively good. He is a benefit to those around him. He sees the need an meets the need. He does charity (the English is unfortunate, the Hebrew term means “justice”). It is commanded in the law.

I have met Christians who boasted that because they believed the right stuff they went to heaven, but Mother Teresa, even though she laid down her life to help the poor, went to hell, because she believed the wrong stuff. It is not for me to pass judgment on this, but consider what Jacob (i.e. James) says:

Jam. 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? 15 And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you tells them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled;’ and yet you didn’t give them the things the body needs, what good is it? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. 18 Yes, a man will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But do you want to know, vain man, that faith apart from works is dead? 21 Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith worked with his works, and by works faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness;’ and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that by works, a man is justified, and not only by faith. 25 In like manner wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.

Let’s read again:

“Show me your faith from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.”

The passage above shows us that faith is not “belief”, but faithfullness that is revealed by doing the good deeds commanded in the law – charity (i.e. justice – that is, it is the right think to do) towards one’s neighbour.

Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Heb. 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works

How often we wonder what those good works are! However, they are not secret. God prepared them beforehand. They are written in the law, and by the Spirit it is put into the heart of all those who partake in the new covenant. The good deeds are summed up in the command:

Lev 19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Can you see the reason given for the command? “I am the LORD”. Powerful words.

Finally, let me quote Jacob (i.e. James) again:

Jam. 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.

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