I will also concede that even once you are a Christian and you are gung ho for being a better disciple, it is not necessarily easier to live a life of righteousness and generousity. We still have desires in our heart that lead us to make serve ourselves and will continue to have until the very day we die and we are likely to screw many times before that time comes.
However, I also hear a lot of talk that also makes it seem like humanity is incapable of being good. It is like it is in fashion for a Christian to have a heaping dose of self hatred and poor self image. That we are so flawed that anything good we do accomplish is clearly only because of the grace of God. I have even heard from a few people that wouldn't be able to love anybody without God. Really? You would not be able to love anybody?
Now, when I respond so incredulously like I just did, Christians will concede that "well, ok, I could love a little bit, but I couldn't keep it up and love everybody or for a long time". I sometimes wonder if perhaps we think that the standard is actually way higher than it really is. I don't love everybody in the world. It would be ludicrous for me to say that I do. I haven't met over six billion of them. I don't think God even expects us to because that is way beyond our capability. That's where I think some people think that we are broken and are sinful because we don't "love everybody".
I think that we are to love those who are our neighbour. Those that we have contact with and where we can impact people. Just because I don't send a care package to every one of the six billion people out there or pray for each one individually it doesn't mean that is why we "have fallen short of the glory of God".
I also believe that people are fully capable of loving others and I think that many do even without "Jesus being in their heart". Why? Because we may be broken, but we are not defective. I am aware that I may be arguing semantics, but what I am getting at is that there is a common thread in a lot of Christian thought that says that we are essentially fleshy garbage and that we can not do any good unless it is God working through us.
What happens because of this thought I think is that we start punishing and belittling ourselves for being garbage because of our transgressions and we actually don't move on. We cry to Jesus to forgive us, but we aren't willing to embrace that idea that we can be different and be people who love and live lives that are good. God has forgiven us, but we refuse to forgive ourselves. Paul even writes that when we follow Christ, our old selves died on the cross with Him, but in the same way, we are resurrected with Him. He gives second life and it is one that we share with Him. We are able to shake free of the burden of the law and always being worried about always having to give sacrifices, but rather focusing on becoming more what God wants us to be which is to love God, love others and transform lives. We recognize that we may still screw up, but let's not dwell on that. Let's just keep pushing forward and trying to become better. Trying to become this sort of heroic persona of ourselves.
We are not garbage. We are people that are selfish and hurt others and we get off track. We are also people who can love and be good and God wants us to move past those mistakes and become perfect even to the point of forgiving us at all costs as long as we are willing to change and follow the way of life Jesus exemplified and preached. Making Jesus our Lord.
The good news about this is that God doesn't actually think you are defective and terrible. The good news is that He wants us to succeed and be righteous or in other words perfect, willing to look past our mistakes through forgiveness given to us by Christ. That He wants to save us from ourselves that would lead us to the destruction of our eternal selves.
The hard part of this versus this traditional idea from the church that we are scumbags and that God should just wipe us out but for some inexplicable reason is willing to forgive us, is that because we are fully capable of being these heroic personas, we are obligated to strive to become that. It is not some magic prayer that lets us in, but actually us changing our attitudes and behaviors to be more outward focussed.
It seems like when we have this idea that we are scumbags, then it is somehow okay to continue on hurting others or ourselves or God because we are so dependent on grace anyways, that it's just all kind of a wash. That as long as we are perpetually groveling to God then we'll make it into heaven okay. If God believes that we are scumbags and are completely incapable of being able to live good lives, then all He is doing is redeeming garbage.
However, He knows us. He knows that we are able to live lives that are generous, benevolent, sacrificial and honorable lives and that we just need to turn away from ourselves and follow Him, then He is redeeming heroes who don't realize that they could be heroes.
I am absolutely tired of Christians hating themselves and others simply because we are human. We make kids believe that they are entrenched with evil and need to ask for mercy. This attitude is what I believe keeps people from Jesus and the church. This attitude makes people weak and afraid to stand up and become the people Jesus actually calls us to be. To be human is to struggle, but to be human also means to have potential.
It hurts so much because I know that a life that follows Christ is about becoming better people, not about how we're evil. Jesus came to break those chains that we seem to want to continue to carry. But people will refuse. They will continue to hate themselves in spite of the fact Jesus loves them.
"He floated back down 'cause he wanted to share
His key to the locks on the chains he saw everywhere
But first he was stripped and then he was stabbed
By faceless men, well, fuckers
He still stands
And he still gives his love, he just gives it away
The love he receives is the love that is saved
And sometimes is seen a strange spot in the sky
A human being that was given to fly"
- "Given to Fly" from the Pearl Jam album "Yield"