Jesus: Not Just a “Good Guy”
For believers and nonbelievers alike, there are many labels associated with Jesus Christ. The Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God. Sadly for many, we also have the label “he was a good guy”, or “just a good guy”. This is a great shame and a disservice, whether you’re a believer or not.
A crude comparison that can be made with Jesus (especially and obviously at Christmas time) is Santa Claus. Many say with equal measure that “it would be nice to believe in God, but…” as “it would be nice to believe that Santa exists”. This analogy also comes up when believers say that you can’t disprove God, and the retort is “well, you can’t disprove Santa, either”.
This brings me neatly on to a point that Paul Williams, the Vicar of Christ Church Fulwood in Sheffield made at one of the Carol concerts recently. As the song goes, Santa “is making a list, he’s checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice…he knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake”.
Paul made the point that Santa Claus is for good people, and you better not be on the ‘naughty’ list. This isn’t the case with Jesus. Put simply, “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). If we say that Jesus was “just a good guy”, then we water down hope. We reduce him to quotes and soundbites used only to admonish people, without looking at ourselves.
People could quote “it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God” to their heart’s content, but if Jesus was ‘just a good guy’ then why quote him with authority? Why not simply quote similar sayings from celebrities and other historical figures? We could say “Jesus was a good guy”, but we could say the same of anyone.
Think of the individuals that are revered around the world. We like to give them acclaim and highlight their success. Adele gets regular accolades as a musician; few people say “she’s just a good singer”. Even fewer people would say “Adele’s a good singer, Joe down at the pub is a good singer; they’re all good singers”.
I don’t intend this to be a put-down of nonbelievers and a platform for believers, as I would be missing the point myself. The refusal to look at our own faults is a failure that can affect everyone and anyone. We are not justified by simply being on a ‘good list’. We are not saved by what we do ourselves alone, but by divine grace, freely given through Jesus Christ. This is bread and butter theology to most Christians, but do we make others aware of this enough?
There are still lingering stereotypes about trying to achieve a set standard of being just “good enough”; this is not the point of the Christian faith, but if nonbelievers continue to have this preconception, then as Christians we’re not doing our job. We (and especially I) can be too timid and accept the “Jesus is a nice guy” line when we’re with others. We can be too timid and accept a watering down of the gospel, so that we really do end up with the “nice guy” reduction.
If as Christians we don’t really accept Jesus for who he was, and for who he said he was, then we are wasting our time. The line “he was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25) must have meaning. John 3:16 must be a source of hope and not embarrassment and doubt: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life“.
Are Christians ever hypocrites? Absolutely! There’s no point in denying it. Jesus slammed the Pharisees when he said “you have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7: 9).
Jesus was far more than “just a good guy”, and he had the authority and knowledge to say this. How often can we be guilty of doing much the same thing as listed here in Mark? Again, we are not good witnesses if we do these things. We can’t put ourselves on a pedestal above others. John 8:7: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone“.
Jesus had an enormous impact on human history, whether you’re a believer or not. He was not simply “just a good guy”. As a Christian, it is the source of immense hope and faith to reject this label, but it is also a challenge. Discussion and great care is needed. People may well claim that belief in Jesus is akin to belief in Santa, but only one of those individuals accepts you for who you are and then gives you the grace that transforms you; that’s more than “just good”.