As much as I disagree with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, they did get one thing right - Confession. I doubt that serious character development can take place in the absence of what Twelve Step Groups call, “A fearless and searching moral inventory.” How much better is that than the atheist’s puerile declaration, “I’m a good person!”
All of our children come from extremely dysfunctional homes. One in particular still has contact with his biological parents. After coming home from a visit he asked my wife, “Do you think someone can go a whole day without sinning?” (He’s ten-years-old). Wendy started to get into how the purity of our thoughts and motives determines the direction of our behaviours. She then stopped and wondered aloud why he was asking. He replied, “I’ll bet my mom can go a whole day without sinning because she sleeps all day.”
Without getting into the right and wrong of sloth and neglect of children, the ability to avoid wrongdoing is something unknown to the human species. For a whole host of possible reasons, some try to deny that fact in their own lives. I’ve often compared atheists to the Pharisees of Jesus’ day and one good comparison is found in Luke chapter eighteen. There we read about a tax collector who, so aware was he of his inner corruption that he could not even bring himself to enter the Temple. He stood at a distance and cried out, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” The atheist on the other hand, I mean, the Pharisee, was thankful that he wasn’t like that tax collector for he, the Pharisee, was faithful to his wife, he paid his taxes and so on. He was, you know, a good person. In his own mind he was better than most.
Christians are not afforded the luxury of such blindness. Saint Francis noted, “God picks the weakest, the smallest, the meanest of men on the face of the earth, and He uses them.” Amen to that brother Frank.
An atheist that goes by the moniker Whateverman accused me of not being a nice person. He’s right. I’m not nice and if I’ve ever made comments to suggest that I think otherwise, please forgive me.
You see, the difference between Christians and atheists is exactly that. Atheists declare themselves “good without God” while Christians admit that we are not good even with God. Jesus didn’t come to earth to make us good. He came to earth to provide for the forgiveness of our sins. A cursory examination of our thoughts and motives reminds us daily that forgiveness is always required. Now, I’m certainly a much better man than I used to be, and that only because of what Jesus has done in me. But good? No, I’m a long, long way from good.
Some nights as I’m saying goodnight to my Father I can’t help but express how sorry I am; for who I am, for what we as a species have done to the planet and to our children - I’m sorry for how we as humans expose our children to corruption and danger for financial reasons (as with the sleazy, exploitive and down right evil entertainment industry).
I’m not advocating a life of constant remorse or some maudlin path of self-recrimination. I am however in favour of clinging tenaciously to reality.
Self-honesty and self-examination is the path of emotional and spiritual health. Self-examination whereby one can:
. Discover wrongs perhaps denied during the course of the day
. Accept that while saved, we’ll never totally avoid our human nature this side of heaven
. Repent for what we’ve had revealed to us about ourselves,
. Discard the wrong thoughts / behaviours and replace them with thoughts and behaviours more in keeping with the character of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus the Christ.