Are Christians Better than Other People?

One common complaint raised against Christians is that “you think you are better than everyone else.” The typical response, often offered preemptively before this objection is even raised, is that “I do not think I am better than anyone else just because I am a Christian. I am just as bad as you are. The only difference is that God looks on Christ’s righteousness instead of my sins.”

So is it true? Do Christians really think they are better than other people? And should they? Are they actually better than other people?

That depends on what you mean by “better.”

Does a Christian have more intrinsic worth in God’s eyes than a non-Christian does? The Biblical answer is “no.” We derive an objective value from being a soul created in God’s image, whether Christian or not (Genesis 1:26, Genesis 9:6, Acts 17:28).

Does God love a Christian more than a non-Christian? If love means wanting what is best for a person, and acting in their best interest, then once again, the Biblical answer is a resounding “no.” Contrary to the conclusions of some Calvinist theologians, God is “patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).”  He illustrates this love by the story of a father who runs out to welcome home his rebellious son (Luke 15:11-31). After all, Jesus died for sinners (Romans 5:8), not people who were already holier-than-thou. (Mark 2:17)

Does a Christian deserve God’s grace more than a non-Christian does? If the key word is deserve, then the answer is “no,” yet again. A Christian is not someone who has earned their salvation. It is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:23). This fact led Paul to conclude, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all” (Romans 3:9). When it comes to deserving our salvation, we are not better than anyone else.

But there is a real sense in which Christians are better than other people. Or at least, we sure ought to be.

A chief aspect of God’s work in the life of a Christian is to conform him to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). There is no reasonable way to understand the concept of “being conformed to the image of Christ,” through a process of “transformation by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:1) that does not include becoming a better person.

Ephesians 4:22-24 states it plainly: “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

If you have not become a better person since becoming a Christian, something is seriously wrong.

In conclusion: Do Christians have more intrinsic worth than others? No. Does God love Christians more than others? When love is understood as an unconditional, active desire for the wellbeing of another, clearly not.   Do Christian’s deserve to be saved more than others? No.

But do Christians behave better than others? The answer had better be “yes.” We ought to be a people unusually full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. We ought to be a people unusually forgiving, unusually meek, unusually pure and upright and gracious and harmonious. Shame on us when we are not.

May we be growing in holiness in a way unlike anything that we experienced before our conversion. May we look more like our God every day. In that sense, may we be better than we were prior to our conversion.

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A Story About a Sheep

When Nathan came to David as recorded in 2 Samuel 12, he came to a man guilty of lust, adultery, reckless endangerment, and murder. And yet David seemed totally oblivious to any of this. For your convenience, here is an overview of David’s recent actions, for which he showed no sign of guilt:

  • David stayed home when he should have been out protecting his people (2 Samuel 11:1).
  • He saw a woman bathing, and decided to sleep with here even after being informed that she was his friend’s wife. (3-4).
  • When she became pregnant, David tried to cover it up, but it did not work because of his friend’s own sense of duty and honor (5-13).
  • Ultimately David staged his friend’s death, sending the plan of action in his friend’s own hands. (14-17)
  • David put countless others in mortal danger in the process, all the while making it look like an accident (18-25).
  • David then saw fit to take this woman to be his wife (26-27).

The incredible thing about David’s state of mind after all of this, is that a made up story about one man butchering another man’s sheep enraged him enough to pronounce: “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die (2 Samuel 12:5).”

Adultery and murder were one thing, but the idea that a poor man’s beloved sheep might be butchered and eaten by his neighbor was simply too much to bear. In this way, I believe our society is a lot like David was in 2 Samuel 12.

Every day we legally put an end to thousands of precious human lives in their mother’s wombs, and millions of people see no problem with this. On the other hand, a U.S. felony conviction for “possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg,” will result in a fine of up to $250,000 or two years in prison.

The law protects an eagle’s egg, but not an unborn child. What rationale could possibly justify this discrepancy?

Someone might suggest that it is important to protect the eagle because it is endangered, while humans are not. This is to suggest that the worth of a human life is inversely proportional to how many humans are currently alive. Surely human worth and dignity are not determined by “how many of us there are.”

Or maybe the eagle is important to the ongoing health of our ecosystem, while another human is not. This is to suggest that a human’s worth is based on their utilitarian value. Have we really come to believe that if a human is not really necessary to the preservation of our own comfort, then they no longer have any worth? Do we really want to live in a world where people only dignify each others’ existence to the degree that they find it personally useful?

Of course, eagles are only one example among thousands that reflect our cultural understanding of the worth and dignity of animals. Just as abortion is only one way among many that we undermine the much greater worth and dignity invested in human beings. What an incredible state we find ourselves in when we are willing to treat human lives in a way that evokes our outrage when applied to animals.

Yes, it is natural to feel affection for cute, fury creatures. And yes, it is right to go to great lengths to preserve the pristine dignity and beauty of God’s natural creation. But do not neglect your fellow man, woman, or child, born or unborn, “useful” or “not useful,” in the process. He or she was made in the image of God.

For the record, the story about the sheep brought David to his senses. Will we come to ours?

Ewe Lamb