A new series on what the gospel isn't, and what it is.
A popular US TV show that premiered on UK Netflix last year is called “The Good Place”. It tells the story of Eleanor Shellstrop, who has died and arrived in an ambiguous ‘afterlife’ called ‘The Good Place’. Michael, referred to simply as the ‘architect’, explains that each of the major religions “guessed about 5%” and that people arrive in the Good Place after stacking up selfless deeds throughout their life on earth.
But what does it even mean to be a good person? Experience teaches us that life often isn’t fair. Good people sometimes work hard and yet still fail, or are badly treated, their good deeds going unrewarded. Bad people sometimes achieve great success off the back of other people’s suffering and abuse their positions of power.
‘The Good Place’ toys with the idea of what being ‘good’ actually means. The main character Eleanor, discovers that there’s been some sort of cosmic misunderstanding, and she’s in the wrong place. She attempts to learn how to be good, to counteract her bad behaviour on earth, with varying degrees of success. Sometimes, the harder she tries to be good, the worse it is, because her motivation is still selfish. Without giving away key parts of the plot, ‘The Good Place’ does show that maybe none of us are as good as we think we are.
When people asked Jesus why He spent time with “tax collectors and sinners”, rather than so-called ‘good people’, Jesus said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Luke 5:31)
“Jesus didn’t come to make bad men good. He came to make dead men live.” – Anon
Compared to the goodness and holiness of God, we all fail. We are all ‘sick’, as Jesus says, and in need of relationship with the ultimate physician. When our good deeds come from a place of trying to work our way into God’s good books, we have missed the point of the work of grace in our lives. The good news is that God has already taken on the weight of our sin and is ready to make us new again, to transform our lives.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)