What about all those people in the world that are not Jesus followers and are also committed to transforming the world for better by doing good? Individuals like Ghandi and Bangledeshi Muhammad Yunis, a Muslim, founder of the Grameen bank and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace prize. Christians certainly don’t have a corner on doing good, in fact, they’re often put to shame by many of those that aren’t Jesus followers.
Here are some initial thoughts:
1) Although I believe in total depravity, that doctrine does not mean we are perfectly evil, we still bear the remnants of the image of God. Like a WW2 bombed out catherdal I once saw, it still bore the marks of amazing skill, beauty and design. Similarly with all people.
2) Common grace speaks to how God’s work extends to all people, not just the ‘saved’. We know from the bible that God raises up people outside of the covenant community to do good, show mercy, advance God’s kingdom, etc.
3) Jesus, as the logos of God through whom all things were made, is communicating to us through creation, through conscience, through circumstances, as well as through the bible. In other words, I believe that these people who do what is good are responding to the voice of Jesus, whether they realize it or not. Imperfectly, mixed motives, just like us, but still a response to God`s voice (i.e. Jesus, the Word/Voice of God).
4) No one is restored to God because of their good works. Jesus is the only way. Having said that, I leave open to God’s grace that people who are not consciously following Jesus, that they may still be demonstrating the kind of humility, repentance and dedication to God’s kind of love that He credits as righteousness. I believe that there are people out there, who like the wise men, are responding to the revelation of God in creation, and are responding properly to Jesus, whether they realize it or not.