The Good Shaman Dilemma, Part 2Back in December, I told you a few stories. I introduced our Mormon neighbors who love family and serve others freely, the incredibly generous atheist students I taught in China, my New Age friend who saved his marriage from divorce, and a shaman who has helped hundreds of troubled teens turn their lives around.
I challenged you to think about it:
People who do not know or love Jesus are leading moral lives. They are doing good, washing cars for free, and influencing other people to quit their destructive lives. They are devoting themselves to promoting love and peace. It isn't a sham. These things are really happening. Change is happening.
In the comment section, we received some great feedback from you. Now it's time to come back to those examples, because I didn't tell you the other half of the stories. I told you what these people did, but I did not tell you why they did it.
Do you remember the shaman I met in the park? I asked him what motivates him to help the teens he works with. He does it for his son's memory, who passed away in an accident at school.
The man who turned his marriage around with the help of New Age philosophy? We talked about why he believes the things he believes and does the things he does. He does it because it makes his life easier, and it gives him a sense of success and meaning.
The atheists in China who are among the most generous people I have ever met? I asked them why they give so freely. One honest student told me that they do it because it is proper, and they must. I am a foreign teacher, and their culture informs them that it is their obligation to treat me with great respect through the giving of gifts. They also did it to impress and to make me happy.
And my Mormon neighbors? I asked them why they they've chosen the faith they have. They told me that they chose it because it makes them happy and gives them comfort because they'll get to be with their families after they die.
Hebrews 13:16 says, "And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." Does this mean that non-Christians are pleasing God when they do good?
Not quite. Hebrews 11:6 makes sure we don't make that mistake: "And without faith it is impossible to please Him."
God is not concerned with what we do alone. He isn't a cosmic slot-machine—insert good deed; plunk, God is pleased. He cares about why we do good. He cares about our relationship with Him. He cares about the position of our hearts—faith or unbelief? It's here that the distinction between non-Christians and Christians becomes dramatic.
When a person does good, he is always doing it out of love for someone or something. For the non-Christian, the object of that love is going to be:
- another person
- an idea or cause
- an animal
- something inanimate
- or himself.
Sometimes he does good for happiness, for success, for a sense of purpose, for a sense of comfort. Sometimes he does good for the benefit of others, because he truly cares. What is missing here?
The Greatest Commandment
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matt. 22:36–40).
According to the Bible, everything we do is to start here—love for the Lord our God.
And Jesus—known, loved, and worshiped as the Bible depicts Him—is missing from every false religion and cult.
No, people don't need Jesus in their lives just to stop doing bad things and start doing good things. Self-help books are wildly popular for an obvious reason; many of them deliver results. Just as you can get on a successful diet without faith in Jesus, you can also improve your relationships without faith in Jesus and become a happier and kinder person without faith in Jesus.
But without Jesus, you have nothing but emptiness in all of it. All the good deeds amount to nothing more than filth-soaked rags (Isa. 64:6) and a chasing after the wind. Without a relationship with Jesus—the Author and Sustainer of life, the One who we were designed to worship—none of it matters. None of it has eternal value. We were born to love Jesus and place our faith in Him alone. Nothing short of that will suffice.
- Do you have a relationship with Jesus? How does the Bible tell us we can get into a right relationship with Him?
- How should this realization change the way that you share the gospel with people?