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Ask Father: What is the difference between being ‘good’ and being ‘holy’?

Dear friend in Christ,

An excellent question!

I get frustrated when people tell me they are “a good person.”

Jesus never told anyone to be a good person. But He talked a lot about being holy.

Holiness means “to be set apart.” Being set apart means being different from the world - acting differently, thinking differently, speaking differently, behaving differently. What do people mean by saying they are a “good person?” I think it means “I haven’t killed anyone.” I think it’s a statement of a bare minimum of human decency, a vague moral standard by which people congratulate themselves for not being a horrible person. The Pharisees whom Jesus rebuked over and over again were definitely “good people.”

Being “a good person” is what people fall back on to reassure themselves when they are not willing to do the difficult work of becoming holy.

Please be assured, being a “good person” does not get one to heaven because being a “good person” is easy – just don’t kill anyone and, boom, you’re a “good person.” Being holy is a lot more difficult.