People like to look back on history and call certain world famous men (or groups of men) good. Perhaps the two groups of men that have been considered the best of the good are the American Founding Fathers and the leaders of the Protestant Reformation. But were they really good men?
If you look through the cracks of history and closely examine the lifestyles of both these groups of men, you will find that these good men engaged in ongoing acts of terrible evil and cruel human rights violations. The American Founding Fathers either openly held innocent men, women, and children in forced labor and lifelong bondage, or politically supported those who did.
Only a tiny few of the Founding Fathers ever admitted the evil of their daily actions against the precious people who they held as slaves and repented and released them. One of those was Robert Carter III of Virginia. His story is amazing. He encountered the living Jesus Christ when his half-brother, who he was holding in forced labor, invited Robert to go to a Baptist church with him. God convicted Robert of the wickedness of holding innocent people in bondage, so he set 442 innocent men, women, and children free.
The top leaders of the Protestant Reformation were also involved in terrible cruelty. All of them either actively supported or advocated and encouraged the cruel persecution of those who didn’t agree with their theological and political positions. Untold numbers of people were tortured and/or killed for not agreeing with and/or conforming to the beliefs of the major protestant reformers. As far as I have found, none of the leading reformers ever repented of their wickedness and cruelty toward the Anabaptists and other dissenters.
So let me ask you a question: If the men we call good and great regularly engaged in and/or openly supported such evil behaviors, why do we consider them to have been good men?
Let’s think a moment about another famous man from history, who also did evil things, but who knew that he was not a good man. His name was David and he was the most powerful king of a united Israel. You already know about some of his immoral behaviors because they are openly recorded and admitted to have been evil in Israel’s national history book, now part of the best-selling book in world history, the Bible.
David committed adultery and didn’t just lie to cover it up. Instead he had the woman’s husband killed. When openly confronted about his sin by a bold citizen named Nathan, David didn’t lock Nathan up or have him killed. Instead David broke and wept. He openly admitted that he had done evil and was a sinful man.
David wrote in the book of Psalms (number 51) about how greatly he was grieved by his wrong doing and by the wickedness in his heart. A broken and deeply sorrowful King David wrote: “Have mercy on me, O God . . . Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me . . . Surely, I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
Sure, we can all disguise our wickedness and pretend we are good people. However, ignoring the evil in our hearts and in our behaviors does not offer any hope for a cure from our personal moral demise and/or for a just and loving society. Only the open admission that we are not good people (Apostle Paul spoke about himself this way: “O wretched man that I am”) and a sincere turning away from our evil actions and attitudes can offer us forgiveness, freedom, and a clean heart and lifestyle.
These words have been sung for many generations by probably more than a billion people world-wide: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” But do we really believe that we are wretches and deeply in need of Christ’s mercy, forgiveness, and deliverance?