I know what you’re thinking— what an aggressive title for a blog.
The other day, I was sitting in class. The class is on the life and theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The conversation got brought up on subjective morality in certain cases. A student in my class, who claims to be a Christian, brought up a point of interest. This post is not about them directly. This post is about what they said because several people I know my age who claim to be Christians think this same thing. The Church (that’s including me) has failed these people. So, before I get fired up, let me establish I’m attacking an idea, not a person. They said something to the effect of this:
“I have a friend back home who is a Muslim, and she is one of the nicest people ever. Like, I don’t think that a loving God would just send her to Hell only because she didn’t pray one prayer about a guy who died 2000 years ago. I just don’t think he would do that.”
Let’s talk about why that’s the falsest thing I’ve ever heard in my whole life.
We need to address several fallacies with this idea that nice people get into Heaven for being nice people.
Every single person has sinned, and that sin robbed them of their chance to get into heaven. Biblically speaking, each person that has ever lived and will ever live was born into a sinful nature by default (Psalm 51:4). Each person has sinned and deserves for that sin eternal death and separation from God (Romans 3:23/Romans 6:23). Therefore, no amount of things can pay the debt owed to win someone’s spot in Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9). Practically speaking, the God of the Bible is holy, righteous, blameless, and perfect. To suggest that anything I could ever do, say, concoct, buy, create, or bring to him would make me like Him is, to be honest, ridiculous.
Being nice is does not have an exclusive relationship with Christianity. Atheists are nice. First off, what does nice even mean, anyway? Nice is perceptive in a lot of ways. Grabbing my plate for me could be seen as nice if I’m done eating. If I’m not, then it’s rude. Being nice is not always up to the person giving. Quite often, it’s up to the person receiving. Sure, we all agree that some things are inherently nice. But that’s not a finite principle. Also, if you’ve read the Bible, namely the Gospels, being nice is not any kind of a requirement definitively. Nice is defined as “agreeable and satisfactory.” Jesus was neither of these things 100% of the time. I mean, you’re talking about the guy who flipped the tables of the moneychangers, the guy who talked back to the Pharisees, the guy who told Peter, “You’re going to deny me 3 times. Watch and see.” Being nice does reflect the love of Christ— sometimes. Being a Christian means you should be nice, as much as possible. Being nice, however, doesn’t lump you into the category of Christian.
Heaven is not a place you get to go because you’re a good person. If that were the case, the vast majority of us would be going, at least according to us. Deep down, a lot of us are what we would call “good people.” But good doesn’t mean good. Good means God. Anything not of God isn’t good, and anything good by definition has to be of God. I pet puppies. I help old ladies carry things. I’ve worked for free before. I answer questions. I respect my parents. But last time I checked, that’s not the Biblical requirement to have my sins washed away. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whosever believes in Him— not turns in homework on time in Him, not compliments their wife in Him, not adopts a cat in Him— shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Additionally, in Matthew 7, Jesus very clearly points out that doing things doesn’t win your spot. Never. At all. At any time. For any reason.
Riddle me this: if you’re a Christian, or a Muslim or anything else really, what kind of faith is it that it takes such a little price to achieve Heaven? I mean, seriously, if being nice was what got you all you wanted in the afterlife, then God has become Oprah, and He can pass out Heaven like it’s candy at a parade. And if being nice, or what we call nice, is the path to Heaven, who gets to decide what amount of nice is good enough? “Well, God will decide one day.” Newsflash: He already decided! He decided to offer us Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who lived the perfect life I couldn’t live and died the death I deserve in order that I could be reconciled to God. That’s the standard. Die to self, grab your cross, and start walking. That’s the way to do it.
I’m sorry if this is you, but if you truly think that God sees some things you’ve done that are “nice” and “good” and wants to let you into Heaven for that, then you’re just a nice person— a nice person going to Hell. The Gospel of Jesus Christ explains that God created humanity to be in perfect harmony with Himself (Genesis 1-2). Humanity’s choice of sin ruined that harmony (Genesis 3). Because of this, all humanity deserves death for their inherent sin (Romans 3:23/6:23). But the good news is that God fixed it for us. He sent His Son to live a perfect life and die a gruesome death by crucifixion in order to be the perfect blood sacrifice for our sins (John 3:16/Romans 5:8). All one must do is confess their sins, repent of them, declare Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life, submit to Him and then go forth living under His provision in order to be reconciled with God (Romans 10:9-10/12:2).
Nice people go to Hell.
Nice people who have responded to the Gospel with a resounding, “yes!” get to go to Heaven.
Should we strive to be nice people? Of course, we should. Christ would have us represent Him that way. But if it’s not out of a heart that’s been changed by Christ, then you’re doing it for high-fives and tallies on your whiteboard at home.
I like high-fives as much as the next guy. I love Jesus Christ an astronomical amount more.