“I’m not a bad person”. So said Peru drugs mule Michaella McCollum in her first media interview since leaving prison, almost 3 years after being caught trying to smuggle 11kg of cocaine into Spain. In a prime-time TV interview the 22 year-old former model said: “I want to demonstrate that I’m a good person”. The jury is still out on that though, especially given speculation that the Northern Irishwoman is rebranding herself in order to launch a media career.
There’s one way we’re all similar to McCollum however – we like to think we’re basically good. At the heart of it we’re good people, we just happen to do bad things sometimes. Even her family priest has bought into this myth. After visiting her in Lima, he said: “She is a very good person; she made a very bad decision”.
We’re told that the reason people do bad things is because they had abusive parents, grew up in a deprived area, weren’t educated properly or, like McCollum, just made poor decisions.
And so when we read reports of serial killers, rapists or child abusers they’re described as ‘monsters’ or ‘inhuman’. They don’t fit the narrative that humans are basically good, so they’re portrayed as something other than human.
Jesus had a very different take on humanity however. He put it blunty: ‘No one is good except God alone’. The Bible consistently teaches: ‘There is none who does good … none is righteous, no, not one’. That includes religious people just as much as anyone else.
We might claim, like McCollum, ‘I have never intentionally set out to hurt somebody’. But deep down, we know that we’ve all said if not done things deliberately aimed at hurting someone else.
Our problem is that we compare ourselves to the wrong standard. It’s easy enough to find people worse than us to compare ourselves to. But compared to God’s standard of perfection, none of us come close. The only truly good person who ever lived was Jesus Christ – and only by trusting in him can we hope to stand before God.
Published in Stranraer & Wigtownshire Free Press, 7 April 2016.