Ralph Milton tells of a teacher who asked the kids one day, "If all the bad children were painted red and all the good children were painted green, which color would you be?"

One child answered the teacher: "Striped."

No matter what you may think of an exercise like this done with kids, it's an important question for us as adults. Think about it. What color would you be? Red? Green? Striped? It's a really tough question when you have only two options and one of them isn't striped!

When we compare ourselves with God, we realize that we're not "good" by divine standards — as Jesus said, "There is no one good but God alone" (Mark 10:18). Those of us who follow Christ know that we're far from perfect. ("If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" — 1 John 1:8 TNIV.) The apostle Paul reminds us that we've all fallen short of God's righteousness and holiness. ("There is no one who is righteous, not even one; ... since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" — Romans 3:9-23.)

I once had an elder who got upset every time I referred to Christians as "sinners," but even the apostle Paul said, "I am the chief of sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). I know he was trying to emphasize that we've all been forgiven, but the fact remains, I stumble and sin. So am I good? Not when compared to God!

But, am I bad?

Hmm, that's an interesting question! The apostle John draws a definite distinction between those who truly follow Jesus and those who continue to live in (persist in) sin. "The one who practices sin is of the devil ..." (1 John 3:8 NASB) and they either deny their sin, claim their sin doesn't matter, or that they have no guilt for their sin so they just keep on with the lifestyle (1 John 1:5-10). Those following Jesus have honestly come clean about their sinfulness and have been forgiven and cleansed of all their sin (1 John 1:5-2:2). The focus of their lives is not sin and ungodliness, but righteousness and holiness. Those following Jesus are trying to put off the "old person" of their sinful past along with its "former conduct" (Ephesians 4:22). While they struggle with temptation, and sometimes even fail, are they bad?

No, I don't believe so. God forgives, cleanses, and restores them because of what Jesus has done (1 John 5:7).

So which color would you be?

Hmm, that's an interesting question!
Were it not for a dear Friend who died in my stead, I would have no choice but to paint myself red. But, because Jesus Christ took on the color red — in a very literal way — and because of my obedient trust in Him, He has transferred His righteousness to me, and I can proudly wear the color green!

"God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21 TNIV).