Accepting Really Bad People

Question: Who believes that only good people will go to Heaven and only bad people will go to Hell? This answer may come as a shock, but there are going to be some good people who will spend eternity in Hell, and there will be some really bad people who will make it into Heaven. How is that possible?

Isaiah said that our righteous deeds are as filthy rags in the eyes of God. And in the third chapter of Romans Paul quoted the Psalms when he wrote:

There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

No matter how good a person is, it is not good enough when compared to righteousness of Christ. So when someone calls himself or herself a good person, it’s simply a matter of who they’re comparing themselves to. The problem is, good deeds won’t cancel out any sin in their lives, and there is sin, because the Bible says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That’s why there will be good people in Hell. Their sin must be atoned for and if they’re counting on their own righteousness, it won’t be good enough to save them.

The standard is not the goodness of other people or our own goodness. We have to compare ourselves to the standard of a holy and pure God. Apart from Jesus Christ, we can never measure up to God’s standard.

But how do bad people make it to Heaven? In the eyes of the world, none of this makes sense. But to believers in Christ, that should be easy. Jesus said that all who call on His name will be saved. Even the most wicked person on the face of the planet will be saved if he or she genuinely repents and accepts Jesus Christ. And when a person genuinely calls on the name of Jesus Christ, it doesn’t matter what they’ve done in the past because God promises that it will be remembered no more. And as someone who conducted himself the way I did in my old life (and still manages to stub his toe every once in a while), I thank God for that promise!

Sometimes though, when we hear of someone who is known to have been especially wicked, we have a difficult time embracing them when they come into the faith. Maybe they lived a certain type of lifestyle that God does not approve of. Maybe they did some really bad things in full view of the world that were done shamelessly. Maybe it’s someone who’s in prison because of a heinous crime they committed. For whatever reason, Christians sometimes have a hard time forgiving that person, and we can even be downright cruel in this area at times. The Apostle Paul had to contend with this after his conversion. For a long time, other believers had very little to do with him. Some were fearful of him, not knowing if his faith was real. Some simply refused to forgive him for the way he persecuted the church. Jesus said I have not come to save the righteous. I came to save the lost. It’s not healthy people who need a physician, but the sick. So when someone who was really sick spiritually comes to know Jesus Christ, why is it that some Christians still treat them with contempt?

God may remember their sins no more, but we have a hard time forgetting, especially when it’s other people’s sins. But I have to admit; I struggle with this and I’m sure most of you do also. And we cannot become more forgiving by our own strength or by our own desire. We have to give that over to God because it’s a condition of the heart, and only God can change the heart. The major obstacle we have to overcome is admitting that our hearts are hard in this area and for men, that can be a very difficult thing to do. But one thing we need to constantly remember is that our Savior was also a man, and in his heart was love and compassion far beyond measure, so much so that while we were still sinners, He died on the cross for all of us! Thankfully, He didn’t harden his heart toward me as I’ve done toward others!

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