A ‘Gospel Bite’ – in other words a short answer to a commonly raised objection to the gospel.
Many people today regard themselves as mostly ‘good’ and therefore, without need of God’s forgiveness or commandments. It is often stated like this: ‘I might not be perfect, but I am a fairly good person’.
Jesus insisted that our fundamental obligation to the creator is to love our neighbor and love our God (Matt 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34). A response could follow like this:
I appreciate what you are saying, but doesn’t it depend on what definition of ‘good’ you’re using? Jesus was once asked by a religious scholar what was the single most important thing to do in life. He responded by saying there was actually two things – to love your neighbor as yourself and to love God with all your heart. Being kind and honest with people is only half of it. He insisted we also have to love our creator. Would you say you’re ‘good’ on Jesus’ definition?
Because Jesus is so highly respected in contemporary culture (at least as a teacher), you may find that people are unwilling simply to write off his words on this topic. This may also provide an opportunity for you to explain that even followers of Christ do not fulfill this command perfectly and so they too need his forgiveness.
The logic of loving God and neighbor as the fundamental obligation of humanity could be teased out in conversation a little more:
According to Jesus, our fundamental obligation in life is to love both God and our neighbor. Most of us would rightly criticize people who claim to love God but ignore their fellow human beings. On Jesus’ teaching, the reverse would be just as open to criticism. Treating people well while ignoring the Creator falls way short of what Jesus taught was our obligation. Jesus left no room either for the religious hypocrite who loves God but not neighbor or for the moral agnostic who cares for people but does not revere God himself. So I guess it depends on whose definition of ‘good’ we’re going to accept. Have you ever looked into Jesus life and teaching?
This ‘Gospel Bite’ is taken from John Dickson’s book The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission (Zondervan, 2010), 206.