Updated: Sep 30, 2019
Just the other day, another minister commented how a member of their congregation said, "I don't need religion to be good." I guess in a sense that is true. In high school and then in college, I rarely if ever attended church and I believed I was good. When we are allowed to set our own standards, I would argue that almost everyone considers themselves in their hearts to be good. Even those who break the rules of society consider themselves to be good. Without God, good becomes a relative term.
The purpose of the Law which contains the Ten Commandments was to present a standard of behavior against which "good" could be measured. Honoring your parents was good but stealing from your neighbor was bad. This standard became the guiding principle behind most legal codes around the world. A society gets together to decide where to draw the line between good and bad. Medicine is good but drugs are bad for example. Wait a minute! Aren't most medicines actually drugs? The thing about legal codes are they are up for interpretation by each generation and each community. Drugs in one area of the country may be bad but in another it is considered medicinal. Drugs that are banned by on nation may be the main product of another. Once again, even with the Law good can be seen as a relative term.
The mystery of our religion, as Paul writes to Timothy, is that "goodness" came to Earth in the person of Jesus Christ. Those who enforced the laws tried to persuade Jesus of the "goodness" of their interpretation and when that failed they proclaimed him "bad". For those, however, who were told by society that they were bad, they found God's goodness in Jesus. The mystery continues in that Jesus through the Holy Spirit is still revealing and working goodness in the lives of those who are faithful. In a world tossed about by the lack of absolute where everything is relative, Jesus still provides a standard of goodness that has lasted over 2,000 years. The institutions of religion may often seem to fail to live up to that standard but the core of our religion is the goodness of Christ.
You may not need religion to be good but the mystery of our religion is that in Christ our original goodness can be found and through the Holy Spirit, restored. When will we stop trying to be god and accept the mystery of God's grace and lordship in our lives?