Topics are often brought up in a contentious conversation that are never fully addressed. It's the nature of these sort of encounters. The conversation I had with that athiest at the coffee shop in Albuquerque was no diffferent. In it we briefly referenced the possibility of an afterlife. What I said suprised him.
The context was strange. We were talking about need for good behavior. It's an often repeated topic when talking to an atheist. The athiest is, after all, usually a humanist. Every athiest I've met has had an intense love for humanity. Each has had a litany of charitable causes and service ortiented societies that they've been involved with. But, usually this issue is also frequently used as a weapon against the religious man. I can't count the number of times I've heard the complaint that many bad things done by many bad people have been done in the name of religion/God/etc.
I'm sure this particular man had heard the usual responses. I'm sure you've heard them too. You know, all the excuses given for why bad people do bad things in the name of religion. I won't repeat them here. It's a topic for another post. But, when it comes to the religious man doing bad things in the name of religion I have a different take. He wasn't prepared for it.
I agreed with him. It's true. Many Christians do bad things. But I suggested that this is as it should be. Why? Because, Christians are hypocrits. We can't help it. He was stunned. I don't think anyone had ever pointed this out to him before. He didn't like the idea. In fact, he said that it shouldn't be that way. Christians are about love and goodness, right? Nope. Not really. I suggested that it couldn't be any other way. As long as we carry in our nature Original Sin this will always be the case. All who profess Christ are spiritually sick. But, Christ is a divine physician who came into the world to heal us. He didn't come for the healthy.
This is important for us all to remember. We are sinners, we are sick, we are hypocrites. Thanks be to God! If it were otherwise I would not have needed Christ. But, the reality is: I'm in desperate need of a Savior. As long as I know this, as long as I let the Divine Physican do his work, I know I'll get better. As I'm filled with God's healing grace the world becomes a little better. Would that we all seek this remedy. Yet it remains that until I'm fully transformed into a saint I will continue to contribute some evil to the world. I'm a sinner. I constantly do things that are contrary to the creed that I profess. But, this is the lot of the Christian. The Church is a hospital for sinners.
This does not mean that we should be satisfied with evil being done in the name of God. On the contrary, we should be disgusted by it. However, we shouldn't be surprised. We each need the mercy of God at each and every moment. It's this gift of mercy – God's grace – that will communicate to us the possibility of eternal life. This is, after all why Christ died.
It is, in the end, not my goodness that matters, but God's mercy.
Goodness is not enough.
Oddly, he agreed.