April 30, 2023 Grace United Church Northampton

Why Christianity is Good

Why Christianity is Good

Not long ago, the question about Christianity was, “Is it true?” Today, the question isn’t “Is it true?” but “Is it good?

The word gospel means “good news,” is it?

Moses was in awe of God. He asked the Lord to show me your glory, God said no man may see my face and live. It’s like asking to touch the sun.

Exodus 33:19 And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you… 22 and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.”

Notice God’s glory reveals His goodness, His goodness is His glory. Mankind in our current, sinful state, cannot see the goodness of God and survive… 

God is good.

But the allegation is the God whom we trust and love is not good, the Bible we read and believe is not good; so therefore, Christianity is not good. It is immoral, harmful, and dangerous for individuals and society. 

But is this true?

Let’s consider some of the allegations, then make the case for why Christianity makes the most sense of the world and offers the greatest good and the greatest hope for individuals, society, and for the entire universe.

One reason people insist Christianity is not good is that, they claim, it promotes violence. Christianity let to the inquisition, crusades, witch trials. 

As Christians, we admit it! Horrific violence has been carried out in the name of Christ, and these are wrong. The Inquisition, witch trials, slave owners justifying owing slaves, Catholic priests preying on boys, televangelists preying on the poor. These are all evil. For these actions do not reflect Jesus Christ; so, by definition, these actions don’t reflect Christianity, but sin. 

Jesus told the story of the man, who stopped to help a stranger who had been beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest ignored him. A wealthy man passed by. But this stranger had compassion, bandaged him, put him up for a few nights. He told this story to show the kind of love and compassion, i.e., goodness that Jesus wants us to have for people in need.

Those who faithfully honored Jesus started the world’s first hospitals, and orphanages, and schools.

While many justified slavery for their own ambitions, other Christians purchased slaves solely to set them free. It was Christians who led in the abolition of slavery. Two-thirds of the members of the American abolition society in 1835 were Christian clergy.

True Christianity reflects Jesus Christ; and the world is a far better place for it. 

A second reason people say Christianity is not good is because, they claim, it a western, white male religion.

Sounds terrible. People want to tribalize everything, view everything based on group identities. But this willfully ignores history,

Revelation 5:9 tells us Jesus was slain, and purchased for God with His blood people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

From its conception, Christianity is multiethnic, multicultural, global.

It was instituted by a Jewish Man whose primary language was Aramaic. It was launched in Israel then spread to Northern Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, and Europe. The Four Gospels themselves reflect this: Matthew was written to Israelis-Jews, Luke to Greeks, Mark to Romans, & John to the whole world.

A third reason people insist Christianity is not good, they claim, is it is exclusive not inclusive. 

Yet Christianity is the most inclusive of theistic religions. For Jesus forgives and reconciles with the Father and gives everlasting life to whoever will receive it from Him. Not just Jews or men, good people or religious people… 

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Granted, Christianity claims Jesus is the only One who gives eternal life. But that’s because Jesus is the only One who fulfilled prophecy, came to us from heaven, and gave His life for the sins of the world. Jesus is the only One who rose from the dead to do this, so of course He’s the only Savior. But I’ll say it again, He freely offers, as God’s gift, eternal forgiveness and life to anyone, 

John 6:40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.

People may argue, like my neighbor to her dying day, “All good people should go to heaven!” But ask them a question, something like: “What’s your criteria for who is good?” Or “If all good people go to heaven, what about those of us who aren’t so good?” If they say, “Well, everyone should go to heaven.” Ask, “So do you believe Hitler deserves to be in heaven right now?” 

See everyone has a boundary line somewhere.

Yet Jesus made it possible and, as Christians, we declare that ANYBODY can be forgiven, reconciled to God, and made fit for heaven. Anyone can be saved who will look to the Savior and trust Him, accept the gift He wants for you. 

That’s wonderfully good about Christianity—it’s called grace. We all need it.

A fourth reason why people insist Christianity is not good, they claim it promotes hatred. 

The Bible is said to be homophobic, transphobic because it denies nonbinary genders. It is called misogynistic because it promotes a patriarchal hierarchy. Fact is, for millennia, Christian women enjoyed far greater protection, security and equality than did women in like every surrounding culture. 

While the Bible upholds certain goods, Christianity never promotes hatred. 

Jesus told His own disciples on the night he was betrayed,

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

In Matthew 5-7, Jesus delivered one of his most famous sermons, the Sermon on the Mount. As he spoke, Jesus encourages us to be humble, merciful, peacemakers, and to radically love, not just our families but our enemies. 

Given that God is morally good and perfect in love, it follows that He desires the best for all people. So, like a good parent, God warns against sin, for He sees the harm and damage to individuals and society as a whole. 

God's stance against certain acts doesn’t reflect a lack of love or compassion for those who engage in them. Instead, it arises from God's desire to protect us from harm and leads to a life of flourishing.

A fifth claim against Christianity is, people say, it oppresses sexual freedom.

For some reason women didn’t like the pagan double standard of letting married men have extramarital sex and mistresses. Women back then didn’t want equal opportunity; they wanted their husbands to be faithful. Men felt no reason. Wives had similar value to a slave. Christianity changed all of this. 

The Bible views sex as a wonderful gift from God, given for pleasure and procreation; but it’s a powerful gift so it does not come without boundaries. 

If you say there shouldn’t be any boundaries. Do you mean there’s nothing wrong with any person or any number of persons having sex outside of marriage? Between different wives and husbands, wives and wives, fathers and children? ...

If you see no harm whatever, at any age, whatever the gender, whatever the relationship, even if they have their own husband or wife. Fine, that is your moral view. But what do you base it on? Is it good?

Yet, most agree, there should be some boundaries! The questions are where those boundaries should be and what those boundaries should be based on. 

As Christians, we trust Jesus so we trust what Jesus says about good and healthy boundaries. But when we affirm His Word that sexual intimacy is designed and reserved for a husband and wife, culture blows up. “Prudes! Puritans!” "How repressive.” “How stupid.” “How evil.”

But the data confirms God’s boundaries for sex bring closer intimacy and greater pleasure, happier marriages and families; while casual, commitment-free sex results in increased dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and loneliness.

A final argument people use to say Christianity is not good is, they claim, Christianity is harmful to our mental health and wellbeing. 

How? Because it says something is wrong with us (sin) and that some of the things we do are wrong (sinful). Telling anybody there is something wrong may cause them to feel immoral, inadequate, judged, or to fear sin or hell. 

True, the Bible refers to sin! But usually as something that hijacks and harms us than more than something we do. Like a doctor, diagnosing a patient, or like the good friend who whispers “you have spinach in your teeth,” it tells us there’s a problem, and provides the answer to our guilt and shame. 

True, Jesus mentions sin. Often. He correlates every human problem to the fact of sin. But not in a finger-pointing way. More as an explanation of the brokenness that we experience:

Sin explains why we’re prone to screw up the good things in our lives; here’s why we inadvertently hurt people we love, make self-destructive choices, do what we hate, and don’t do what we wish. 

But He doesn’t just leave it there. So there you are, now deal with it. Fix it. 

Rather God sent His Son. Jesus came to us, God, goodness, love personified. And in God’s love, rather than chastise us, Jesus laid down His life for us.

Maybe particularly when we speak of sin, we see the essence of goodness! God doesn’t ignore it. Hate you for it. Judge you for it. Christianity points to Jesus, and says you are loved and here is God’s forgiveness and acceptance. 

So Christianity frees us from guilt, from shame, and empowers us to live well. And through the Holy Spirit, God helps us to live differently today. He sets us in a community of mutual care and help. Yet even when we fail and we act as selfish as ever, He picks us up, dusts us off, smiles assuredly, and tells us, “Yes, I still love you. Now let’s do this together.” 

Christianity is true and good. Eternally good, and good for our wellbeing. 

The data backs it up—according to the Washington Times, during COVID, those who regularly attended church were the only segment of the population whose mental health actually improved during the pandemic.

Further data shows church participation correlates with less depression, less suicide, less emotional-coping meds like smoking and substance abuse; plus increased social support greater meaning and greater satisfaction with life.

Besides answering their charges, here are a few more reasons.

First and foremost, Christianity is good because Jesus is good. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and gave hope to the hopeless. Greater than this, He forgives people’s sins on God’s behalf, gives sinners right standing, and restores those who feel far from God.

Consider that we broke the Law, we rebelled against God, we sinned against God’s goodness. But knowing better than us that we don’t have what it takes, God became a man to pay our penalty with His life.

This is why Christianity is good, 

2 Corinthians 5:19 For God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

We can’t convince anyone that Christianity is good who’s unwilling to look at Jesus. 

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 

This is the goodness of God and of Christianity. 

For those still skeptical, Christianity is good because the believer can know she is fully accepted by God, even when we fail to act like the person He says we are. It's good because we don’t have to perform. And we don’t live in fear. 

Christianity is good because it confers infinite worth to the believer. And it’s good to know our worth and significance; it frees us to love those who don’t share God’s opinion of us. Anytime we’re able to love, it is good. 

Christianity is good because we no longer need to fear judgment, death, or the world blowing up, or our life careening out of God’s care. It gives peace.

Faith in Jesus, so Christianity, gives us a new way of knowing and relating to God too—by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Not law. Not good works.

Finally, Christianity is good for Jesus promises He’ll return and to establish His kingdom and bring God’s justice and righteousness to the world. I.e., GOD'S GOODNESS. For all of the brokenness and suffering of this world will be replaced with righteousness, peace, and joy in His physical presence.

For the skeptic, I encourage you to take a closer look at Jesus, see the beauty and goodness and strength Jesus Christ. Ask yourself if your objections to Christianity truly represent Jesus’ teaching and practice. Don’t let anyone else ruin that for you. Ultimately, I encourage you to trust Jesus to reconcile you to God, giving you new life, hope for today, and a great future.

For the believer, I encourage you to embrace the goodness of God, and the goodness of the life Jesus calls you to embrace. God is good. His word is good. To believe what he says and to follow Him is good. Continue to learn of Him, learn from Him. Grow in your love, go to Him daily, He cares for you. 

Phillip Yancey wrote: "The more I study Jesus, the more I am amazed by him. The more I learn about him, the more I want to learn. The more I get close to him, the more I realize I'm in the presence of someone who is so good, so holy, and so pure, that my only response can be to fall down on my knees in worship."

May we also share the faith and joy we have in Jesus with those around us.