It hangs over us all year long, but the magnitude of “The List” grows as Christmas Day approaches. And so it has been for our entire lives. We joke about it as adults, but the meaning behind it remains firmly entrenched in our moral code – a moral code that seems to tap dance its way through and around the very Word of God. While the Bible is full of instances where justice reigned down on those who did evil in the sight of God (i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah, Ananias and Sapphira) and while the Bible admonishes us to choose good over evil, it seems that without careful thought we can step into a belief system where we determine our destiny by our own actions and, in so doing, ignore the way God loves those who are naughty AND nice.
In something of a playful way, we use the naughty and nice concept to control the behavior of children. In a much more serious sense, we use the naughty and nice concept to control our own behaviors and the behaviors of those in our society. Unfortunately, most religions rely heavily on the concept of naughty and nice to sustain their moral code – a practice that is ultimately futile since all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. No one can measure up but the belief system (religion) continues with the never-ending pursuit of perfection. If you will just do enough “do’s” and avoid enough “don’ts” then you will end up on the nice list and go to Heaven, but if you fail to do the do’s and you are very adept at doing the don’ts then it’s the naughty list for you and a one-way, expense paid trip to Hell. That’s the way religion works – always has and always will because we as humans want to control our own destiny and most religions provide just such a tool for us to do that. It’s a win-win. We get to control our lives and religion profits by helping us do it.
However, God laid out a different plan through His Son, Jesus. God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son, Jesus, so that all who believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) For it is by grace we are saved and not because we are on the nice list. Otherwise, we would tend to boast about being on the nice list instead of rejoicing that we know the One Who put us there in the first place. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Naughty or Nice? God declares us righteous through the blood of Jesus. (Romans 5:9) God declares that we are on the Nice List because of Him. And not only that – He takes the list of the bad things we have done and drops them into the Sea of Forgetfulness and remembers them no more. (Micah 7:19) Again, it’s not because of what we have done or haven’t done, but it’s solely because of Who He Is.
I enjoy the fun of Santa and I don’t have a problem with teasing folks about the naughty or nice list. However, if you’re talking naughty or nice – you’re naughty. God said so and your actions back Him up. But because of Jesus you can be on the Nice List. How sweet is that? Sweeter than any Christmas candy or any sugar plum you can imagine.
The difference between Hell and Heaven is not Naughty or Nice. The difference between Hell and Heaven is a Savior – Jesus Christ.