Can a religious person still be good?

Hot_cheesy_goodness_grilled_cheese_sandwich_hat-p148006930744930019qz14_400"Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph.  He was a member of the Jewish high council…" – Luke 23:50 (NLT)

Just a simple but important thought for today:

It is possible to be a religious person and still be a good person.

I know, I know.  You're right.  Many of the problems in our world are caused by religious people.

And I know, I know.  Yes, many of the problems in North American churches are caused by religious people.  Makes me sick.

But please don't lose sight of this:  It is possible to be a religious person and still be a good person.

And a righteous one too.

Hard to believe nowadays.  I know.  It can seem like "religious" people are some of the worst people there are.

But there is a quiet revolution happening… and I pray that you will rest on the hope of this truth: There are many, many people who are religious… and who also are good.  One example:

His name was Joseph… and he was uncomfortably and frustratingly and embarrassingly an official representative for one of the most notorious religious teams in history.  He was a member of the brute-squad that crucified Jesus.  I don't think this made him feel good about himself though… I don't think he took any pride in being associated with haters.

Religious groups can tend to do that… hate people, divide people, spit vehemence at people, and throw violence at people.

But not all religious people are fractious. 

Some, it is possible, are good…

… and  do good…

… and disagree with the decisions and actions of those other "religious" people who are fractious…

… and they still believe in the truth…

… and they still act in the truth…

… and therefore they still pursue goodness and mercy.

Joseph was just such a person.  Here's the rest of the passage: "Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph.  He was a member of the Jewish high council, but he had not agreed with the decisions and actions of the other religious leaders.  He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he had been waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.  He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body.  Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock.  This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation for the Sabbath." – Luke 23:50-54

I am so encouraged by Joseph of Arimathea.  He is a hero of mine.

Even while the rest of his cohort crucified and condemned people with their words and dismissals, he quietly, but confidently, behaved admirably.  Joseph did not deny his faith in the Kingdom of God.  He lived it… even if mournfully and even if humbly and even if determinedly… Joseph lived a life characterized by goodness.

Now that is a witness I can follow.  That is a witness the world appreciates.

This year, as the world grows weary of the religious, may the good and righteous shine through.  Amen.

 

Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

3 thoughts on “Can a religious person still be good?

  1. Hi Karin. I love interacting with you! Been way too long! So thanks for asking me more about this.
    I suppose by “religious” I simply mean that someone has dedicated their life to an organized, recoginized spiritual practice.
    I consider myself “religious” in that I pray, I attend church, I raise my children to learn about God, I read my Bible daily, etc. Certainly it could be said that the Israelites of the Old Testament – or those who dedicated their lives to the practice of the Temple and sacrifices and prayers and festivals – that they were “religious”.
    The point of my post was a simple one. Probably not too deep. It was merely a note of encouragement for myself really.
    While many people in our society have grown tired and distrustful of the motives and actions of “religious” people, there are still some among us who long to live in relationship with Jesus. And when religion is used correctly it can actually help us recognize relationship with Jesus (like Joseph) and help us live intimately and humbly with him. So even if I am linked by religious name to some poor examples, that doesn’t mean I need to give up my religious practices. Just because there are some pastors who are screwing up, doesn’t mean that I need to stop being a part of church. Just because there are some “Christian” dads out there who have hurt their kids, doesn’t mean I need to stop loving my kids and telling them about Jesus.
    So I love what you are saying, because I can see that you get it. Yes, like you are saying, it is the heart-attitude that directs our practice– a practice that really should be all about relationship and “a heart that yearns after him.” I love that line of yours.
    (ps. It is very interesting that he teams up with Nicodemus… also a very religious man.)

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  2. I understand that he was part of a religious group but what is your definition of the word religious because even though he was a part of that group, it sounds to me that he was not religious at all. If religion is doing things out of tradition or doing things because we think we need to earn our salvation and having the attitude of ‘do, do, do’ and trying to be good by ourselves rather than allowing Christ to live through us then I don’t think he was actually religious. Yes, in a religious group but his heart attitude seems to be one relfecting God’s character. And if he was considered good and righteous it is only because of Lord and the Lord wants nothing to do with religion and hardened hearts, he wants relationship and a heart that yearns for him. Hope this doesnt sound like an argument, I’d just like some clarification if you have any, or any thoughts because it’s a little unclear to me. Thanks!

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