Do you ever read a line from a book that just hurts your heart?
I love Little Women, don’t get me wrong. It’s one of my favorites! And usually, Alcott’s theology and mine align perfectly, and I often walk away feeling refreshed and whispering a hearty, “Amen!”, with a new determination to live up to my name (“diligent worker”) and show everyone Jesus.
But this morning, I was reading a scene where the girls and Laurie were admiring a breathtakingly lovely horizon and wishing they could live there someday, and Meg made a comment of, “There is a lovelier country than even that, where we shall go, by-and-by, when we are good enough.”
And I winced.
No. No no no no no.
Meg darling, don’t you see? You can’t be good enough. Believe me; I’ve tried.
For years I lived as a Christian but not a Christ-follower. (Because yes, there is a difference.)
For years I convinced myself that that was the business of life– all that being “good enough” stuff that leaves you holier-than-thou but oh-so-empty.
It took me years to realize that those good works? They’re not what you do to gain salvation, maybe, hopefully. No, they’re the result of salvation– the overflow of God’s light into your life.
Goodness means nothing– absolutely nothing!– if you don’t know Jesus.
Every other religion in the world puts an emphasis on doing good deeds to earn salvation. What makes us different?
Isn’t it the loveliest truth, the gospel of grace?
Isn’t it the most freeing thing, the truth that Jesus died on the cross to redeem us all?
Isn’t it the most peaceful thought, that we have a faith that cannot be shaken, a salvation that cannot be taken away from us?
Because, dear one, when Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished”?
He meant them.
That veil wasn’t torn for nothing.
That Old Testament theology of “his faith was accredited to him through righteousness” wasn’t cast aside on Calvary only to be taken up again by the very people who claim to be Christians.
That Savior wasn’t crucified so that you could continue to keep striving for perfection.
Because what’s the point of the cross– of Jesus– of any of it– if we could get to heaven based on our own merit?
Why do we keep trying to scrounge up our loose change to pay the debt that Christ has already paid in full– and then some?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t do good deeds at all; they’re wonderful. It’s even in the second commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself.
But all of those good works and self-disciplines and little steps towards Christ-likeness?
They come after salvation, not before.
When you become friends with Jesus, you’ll find that it’s your love for Him that makes you want to be good, want to be a pure and radiant light for Him. Holiness is the overflow of Christ’s love, spilling out from you into the lives of all you meet– not something you spend your whole life trying to fill the gaping holes in the wellspring of your heart with, hoping and praying it’ll be “good enough” for your Creator.
You won’t be “good enough” because “good enough” doesn’t exist.
And you know what?
Christ has set you free, dear heart!
Salvation isn’t a thing to be earned, but a gift freely given you by the One we’re all celebrating this season.
All you have to do now is:
a.) accept it with a repentant and grateful heart, and
b.) go forth and share that precious, beautiful gift of freedom with the rest of the world.
“The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother.”
― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women