Sometimes you have to state the obvious. Western minds are obsessed with the question of what defines a good person, and how we become good people. The biblical approach is completely different. The underlying assumption is that there are no good people, and that it is not possible to become a good person. Rather, it is a question of how we can find God’s favor. The whole of biblical revelation is wrapped up in the assumption that we are deeply broken, and that this brokenness cannot be fixed. So all that’s left is crying out to the Creator for mercy.
We remain deeply cynical about ourselves first. The whole question of redemption from sin and the transformation of spiritual birth is not removing sin, but removing the accountability for sin. Not in the sense of now being free to do whatever the hell we please, but it is in the sense of wishing very much we weren’t so badly broken. We come to agree with God about what sin is, and how bad it is, and want very much something we have clearly lost since departing the Garden of Eden. We long to return to Eden, and we understand fully there is something inherent in our nature that keeps us out of Eden.
We will not get there in this life. There is another life to follow this one, an existence we know we cannot comprehend. Nonetheless, our wiring recognizes it is there, and draws us with longing for it. There is no transformation that makes humans good enough to get in there while we retain our human form. We have to leave this human form behind, and that means dying. The real transformation of spiritual birth is recognizing that dying is a good thing. It is a reward for suffering through this life with a potent desire to be back in Eden. We learn to identify with something not available in this life, a gift from above to genuinely care about what our Creator wants.
Without that flaming desire to be what God intended, there has been no transformation, no spiritual birth. It’s a miracle gift, not an achievement.
We have no illusion about being good people. We seek to be redeemed people through a desire for what ought to be, and that means leaving this prison existence. The key to holiness is desire, a drive for escape from our brokenness, with the sure knowledge that escape is not in this life, but we must escape from this life. We aren’t going to pull goodness down to this world; we are going to hitch ourselves to goodness from another world. We will suffer the sentence of mortality and evil and embrace death when it finally comes as the gateway to Eden.
There can be no good people in this life, only those few who belong to Eden, and a great many who do not.