The big boy had the small boy pinned to the ground and was grinding sand into his mouth. The small boy squirmed and struggled to free himself from the big boy's grasp.
A stranger, bigger than both, appeared and, seeing the small boy's plight, grabbed the big boy by the nape of the neck and pulled him off the small boy. Now freed, the small boy jumped to his feet, spit the sand out of his mouth, and attacked the stranger. "You leave my brother alone," he screamed. The "bad" big brother became the "good" big brother when the stranger interfered!
Good guys/bad guys ... it does seem to be a relative thing, doesn't it?
The problem with this good guy/bad guy business is that today's good guys are often tomorrow's bad guys ... and vice versa. This happens when "good" and "bad" are measured by whether a fellow is "on my side" or not. It may have nothing at all to do with his character. If he is useful to me ... if he votes for me ... if he sticks up for me ... then he is a "good guy." I'll be patient with his weaknesses and even tolerate his badness if he will be loyal to me. It is amazing how I can rationalize questionable behavior on the part of those who are "on my side."
But let my "good guy" switch his allegiance, and suddenly the sins I found it convenient to cover become cardiac in my crusade to crush him. After all, I cannot tolerate sin. God wouldn't want me to. So I rally my current "good guys" and, together, we "stand for righteousness!"
Are "good" and "bad," then, only relative terms?
There are those who say they are. Let me illustrate.
It is time for election. One candidate is an excellent, well-trained man. The other candidate is inept... but he is my cousin. Now, who is the "good" man for the job? If "goodness," in my mind, is based on kinship ... then the inept cousin will get my vote ... not because he is "good" for the job, but because he is "good" for our family. Relative!
I want to get married. My fiancee is unsaved. I'm convinced that she will become a Christian after the wedding. My pastor says, "No ... it is better to wait. She is not interested in Christ. She is only interested in you." My pastor now becomes a "bad guy" to me ... not because he is fulfilling his role of counselor and spiritual adviser, but because he won't do what I want. Good and bad are relative ... related to my will and my wishes!
I'm in the car business. To sell cars, I boast of all their good features but I'm silent about their weaknesses. After all, it's not "good" business to tell all I know. "Good" salesmanship is like that. It would be "bad" for business to tell the whole truth. So good and bad become relative ... relative to the profit motive.
I am the pastor of a thriving church. I accept men of questionable spiritual experience as members because they have money and are financially "good" for the church. I tolerate carnality because people would leave and go to another church if I preached against marginal living. Good and bad are relative things with me. They relate to financial success and numerical growth.
"Good" and "bad" in the above instances are indeed relative ... but only because they relate to man's idea of right and wrong. But what does God say?
The Bible is a good guy/bad guy Book.
The righteous have God's blessing. Evil men face God's judgment. There is no "in-between" area. You either are ... or you aren't.
Goodness and badness become "absolutes" when related to the kingdom of God. Believers are counted "good guys" because of their acceptance of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They may be far from perfect, but God still counts them righteous because they "belong to the King!"
Conversely, those who reject Christ, and refuse to submit to His authority over their lives, are in God's "bad" books! They may be upright citizens. They may pay their debts. They may treat their wife and children with kindness. They may do many wonderful works. But all their "goodness" does not change the fact that they belong to the wrong kingdom. Belonging to the wrong kingdom makes them "bad guys" despite their "good" record.
In times of war, very "good" people are considered "bad" for no other reason than that they are "on the wrong side." This is how it is with the kingdom of God. To not be "for" it is to be "against" it, and those who are against it are its enemies ... "bad guys!"
You say, "That's not fair. I'm better than a lot of what you call God's "good guys." Sorry friend ... it is fair ... and not only fair, but fact! God does not base salvation on works. You will never be able to say, "See what I have done ... accept me for my "good" works." No! God has ruled out works as a basis of salvation ... "lest any man should boast."
To believe ... to belong ... to be on the right side ... this is what makes a "good guy." Conversely, if you reject God's plan of salvation ... if you refuse to make Him Lord of your life ... then all your righteousness ... good as it is ... will not help you.
"By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God!"
Let me plead with all "bad guys." We respect your "goodness." We honor your efforts to be upright. We admit that you put us to shame many times, and even excel us in goodness. Please don't stop being good. But for goodness sake stop depending upon your goodness to save you!
Remember, it is not your goodness that God is displeased with. God is displeased with your attempt to use your goodness as a passport to Paradise. God is displeased because you have rejected His way of salvation. That is why you are listed in His books as a "bad guy." That is why all your righteousness will be as filthy rags as far as your salvation is concerned. Only faith in Jesus Christ can save you. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!"
You see, nobody's perfect. Everybody in the world is a combination of good and bad. There are no altogether bad people, and there are no altogether good people. Everybody is a mix ... some good and some bad ... some much bad and little good ... and some much good and little bad ... but still a mix.
God stepped into this situation through Jesus Christ. Jesus "became sin for us." He was counted a "bad guy" (though He had done no evil) that we might be counted "good guys" through faith ... through accepting God's conditions for our salvation.
So with God there are only two kinds of people in the world ... "good guys" and "bad guys." God divides men, not by weighing their good against their bad on a scale, but according to their acceptance or rejection of Christ. Acceptance of His condition for salvation ... which is faith in Jesus Christ... makes the difference between a "good guy" and a "bad guy" in God's Book. And remember, there is no neutral ground ... no "in between!"