I recently read “How To Be Good” by Nick Hornby. I’ve only read two other of his books to know that he is a master at creating characters, so fully and intricately, that they jump out at you from the pages of your book.
“How To Be Good” is no different. He tells of the story of a married couple who finds themselves on the brink of a divorce, Katie and David. They trod along, clumsy and unsure, until David undergoes a sudden and drastic spiritual conversion of sorts. He is then convinced, thanks to his spiritual healer, that he must take extreme and audacious measures to change the world.
Katie is then left bewildered at his husband’s radical transformation and is forced to examine her own moral compass and what it really takes to get into heaven someday.
The story ends rather open-ended-ly. Katie decides to stick it out with her marriage, although the author hints at a certain bleakness at this decision. On the other hand, David’s transformation does not last long. He is soon confronted by old demons, and then slowly realizes the futility of trying to do good in this world. As Katie remarks somewhere down the line, “You’re still human. You’ve just forgotten it.”
There is a clear truth to this book, my dear friends. We can do all the good we can in this world, but there will always be a point when our strengths will fail us and we will tire out and look around helplessly. Because we are only human and we slip, we fall and we fail. That is our nature.
And that is why though I love Nick Hornby and his amazing capacity to hit the nail right on the head (while being witty, funny and remarkably clever all at the same time), I do wish that he would someday write a Part 2. And that this sequel would not end on such a dismal note but rather introduce an idea that would instead bring hope to his readers.
You see, we are never meant to “try and do good” in the hopes of making our way to heaven. It’s never been about how many homeless kids we give spare change to or how many old clothes we donate to charity. It’s not even about how perfect our attendance is in church or how well we know the Bible.
When Jesus Christ came down on earth to die on the cross for us, He has already done everything there is to do. By His blood, we have been saved and through the cross, He has paid for our salvation. There is nothing else we can do to add to this. It has already been done.
“Doing good” is also not a means or a way for us to go to heaven. That is why we must be wary of religions or belief systems that heap all these instructions on you: “Do this, do that, be good, be that so you that you can reach nirvana or so that you will go to heaven or so that God will be pleased with you.”
That is not how it works. “Doing good” will not save you.
Only Christ can.
As a famous line from a poet goes, “Religion says do. Christianity says done.”
The authentic Christian does good as an effect of the marvelous, marvelous thing that Christ has done on the cross for him. The good acts that come out of him are the fruits of having been saved, and of having a real relationship with God.
So, I imagine Part 2 of “How To Be Good” to be the answer of the question of “How To Be Good”.
Because I know that a lot of us really, really want to know the answer to this one. I mean, it can get confusing, can’t it?
Or maybe you don’t really want to be good but you just want a changed life, somehow. Perhaps you long to stop smoking or to stop doing drugs. Maybe you are exhausted from getting into all these wrong relationships or tired from just striving, striving, striving at work.
Maybe you are beginning to feel empty and starting to wonder if there really is any meaning to any of what you are doing. Maybe you have lost touch with your family and just want to talk to your dad or your mom or your sister again.
Maybe you are searching for something real this time.
My dear friends, there is only one answer, and it is easier than you may think.
It does not consist of praying a numbered set of prayers at a given time, reciting the novena, kneel-walking your way down an altar, wearing a certain length of skirt or any of those things that require, require, require. Or ask you to do, do, do.
Because doing good and doing it on your own is not only difficult, it is also pointless.
For goodness can only come from the one and true Author of everything that is good, perfect and pleasing. The Maker of the universe and the author of our lives, God our Father.
And the only way to Him is through His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. 🙂
Perhaps you already know Him already and perhaps you have been thinking about it for some time but are just afraid that it will be too hard and you might be required to follow too many rules and that you will have to do this and do that and that it’s too much to even think about right now…
But I assure you that it is not like that at all. So I encourage you to invite Jesus in your heart today and you will discover as you get to know Him more and more that being good is not about doing good so that God will be pleased with you.
Rather it is having Jesus in your heart and letting His goodness change you because God is already pleased with you and there is nothing else you can do that can ever change that.
Be blessed today. 🙂