As a teenager, I spent years thinking about this question. “What is the difference between a Christian and all other good people who are not Christians?” Why be a Christian? Why not just be a good person and leave God out of the picture? This is a question many people have asked over the last three hundred years. Some of those people became quite famous asking that question. They became known as “Humanists”. Humanists believe that goodness is a human quality and can be part of human life, without needing to believe in God.
Many people may choose to be good, regardless of God. If you choose to be a good person, you will certainly be appreciated by others, and generally, most people would agree, you will probably have a happier life than if you are an evil person. Good acts usually breed good acts, happiness gives birth to happiness most of the time, and the human race would definitely be better off if we were all good.
However, for Christians, just being good is not good enough. We know that God created us for so much more. Why be the shadow of the person God created, when you can be the real thing? We want more than to be good people, simply responding to the seed of compassion that God put in us in the first place, yet not acknowledging that He made us like that. We want so much more! We want to be like God! We want to be completely united with God, and we want it to last forever. We want to be holy!
Each of us was created by God because He loves us. As our maker, He wants us to be like Him. It is that simple. All of the human race is called by God, to be just like God. He wants us to be holy because He is holy. God created us for this very purpose, in His image and in His likeness. God is holy. We need to be holy. Simple! That is the difference, this holy relationship with God! Goodness in Christians can only be a natural result of this relationship with God. We want to be good because we know that is what God wants from us in our relationship with Him.
The difference between a good person and a Christian, is that we Christians have freely chosen to answer God’s invitation. This invitation is His “calling” to us, which is to enter into a relationship with Him and through that relationship to find our true selves and to cast off the “shadow”. You can choose to follow His calling or you can choose to fight His calling. The choice is yours. Do you want to follow His calling to you? Do you want to enter into this loving, intimate relationship with God? Do you desire not just to be good, but to be holy? If yes, then keep reading:
1. Christians copy Jesus Christ. They study and learn about Him. They imitate His way of doing things, His way of living, His way of being with others. They imitate His love, His kindness, His purity, His Holiness. When they make mistakes, they feel sorry for betraying His love, they seek His forgiveness and start again.
2. Christians try as much as possible to be in constant communication with God, ensuring they are in tune with Him, and trying always to be aware that He is in touch with them. They do this through lots of prayer and also by receiving God directly as Holy Communion.
3. Christians worship God. They gather together and praise God, they glorify Him, they ask God for help and thank Him for all His kindness.
4. Christians stay united. They are brothers and sisters, they look out for each other, care for each other, pray for each other. They are the Church. They help each other to be more and more like God, closer to God, united with God. God becomes the glue that unites Christians to each other.
Jesus came down to Earth to show us the way to be more than just “the shadow” of the person God created, to be more than just a good person, but disconnected from God. He showed us by His teachings and his example. He left us the Church, the community which works together for this purpose. The Church is the “ark” to take us to God. The Church works together for holiness, through fellowship, common worship, Holy Communion and confession and through charity and love.
Christians are good, because God is good. Christians love, because their father and friend, Jesus Christ, is love. They follow Him because He is the Way. They look to Him because He is the Light. They believe in Him because He is the Truth. So, Christians have hope. They are not scared of anything, not even death, because they have hope in Him. Christians are happy because they have this hope. Christians are peaceful because they know He is looking after them completely. They look forward with great anticipation to eternal life with Him, because Christians love God so completely. Good people, who are not Christians, choose to deny themselves this relationship with God and are missing out on all these things.
Of course none of this happens overnight. Christians work on this relationship with God all of their life.
In short, the difference between a Christian and a “good person” is this relationship with God. We call this “Communion with God”. The result of communion with God is the gift of His holiness upon us. All people can be good, however, Christians use good acts, and other means to connect or “commune” with God on a day to day basis and eternally.
So that is the difference between being good and being a Christian. If you want it mathematically, the difference is eternal! It is the relationship with God and all that comes with it.