The Danger of Thinking People are Good

As a pastor I try to navigate the political issues carefully for the opinions of how we live out our faith in the arena of government and in the community vary widely. Where some political perspectives see faith as important to the life of the public community others see it as dangerous to interject faith into that area. Others see social justice issues as being aligned with the mission of the church and thereby encourage a strong government that seeks to give aid and assistance to those who are in need (or perceived to have a need), while others see the private sector (including the church) as the way to best address social ills. With so many opinions and perspectives held by faithful Christians, and with my desire to connect people to Christ more than settle political arguments, I try to remain quiet on the political front (and try may be the key word in that statement).

One thing I can remark on is the mindset I see often times in people who are not strong believers in God, if they even believe at all. I read a comment by a self-proclaimed atheist that defined this mindset that I see as dangerous – there is a belief that people are inherently good. Now, at first glance that sounds nice. We should think the best of people until they prove otherwise. Problem is, they will prove otherwise. The bible is clear and the history of the world has a massive preponderance of evidence that every person is capable of evil. 

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

It is a given that all of us and any of us are capable of wrong-doing and/or wrong-thinking. Those who believe people are inherently good will, by the nature of that mindset, believe the wisdom of people can solve any issue and that evil can be overcome simply by the force of personality or persuasion.

Why is this a bad thing? Well, if you have flawed people trying to solve issues of other flawed people, but the first flawed people don’t see themselves as flawed and only see others as misguided, then you set yourself up to wreak havoc in society. To believe that people are inherently good is to believe you yourself are inherently good and that is a form of pride, and pride of that ilk will not lead to good things.

So what is the answer? The answer is to acknowledge our “bent toward sinning” and to admit our faults and our inability to make things right. The answer is to look to one who is not flawed, to look to one who does not sin, to submit to the authority of one who is perfect in love and grace and mercy. The answer is Jesus. Not only can he lead us as we can’t lead ourselves, but he gives himself to us, puts the Spirit of God within us and the Spirit transforms us more and more into the likeness of Jesus. It’s not that we overcome our faults and make ourselves perfect, but that by the power of God we are made perfect in love. It means we look to God’s wisdom and God’s principles to govern our community and thereby find a life of joy and peace together. To live together in community in a meaningful way requires that we acknowledge our tendency to seek selfish ends and to acknowledge that but by the grace of God we will go the wrong direction.

This maybe too heavy for a Monday morning musing, but the issue keeps coming into my head and I thought you might help a brother out by sharing my burden.

Holy high five to you, Mike.

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