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Belief Beyond Believers
Do you really believe the Gospel?
Am I good enough for Jesus? No. Can I be with the accrual of the greatest faith on earth and a life of volunteerism and prayer? No. This is beside the point. We are not Christian because we can be better, but because of truth and love. Ideally becoming better is a great co-product, but this is not where we start. If your faith in Jesus is undermined by people, consider that you might not have faith in Jesus, but in people. No conversion ever happened because someone of a particular denomination or religion was so nice or inviting. Neither can faith properly be understood and abandoned because of someone else’s dysfunction. This being said no one has any right to tell us, we have to be perfect to sit in a pew. In fact, this is upside down, you have to be imperfect and know it to be receptive to grace. It seems that in those circumstances people forget the nature of the problem of sin in the Christian life in general, the nature of logical belief, and/or forget how to apply it in the particular circumstance where forgiveness and understanding are needed/expressed.
First, If you have ever been to a Church, you may or may not be able to tell who thinks the most of themselves. Even though we do not really go to Church because of the people, some stop going because of people. This is understandable on the one hand, after all the building we go to on Sunday is full of people who sin and at the same time believe in better. On the other hand, it is an occupational hazard, if you want to avoid sinners you will have to wait until you get to Heaven. No saint has ever lived who was not first a sinner (with the obvious two exceptions). Noting that sin creates division and is not holy, how can we say that Christ's Church is one and holy? Instead of answering this in my own word, given the sensitivities involved, I find it best to quote others who are more eloquent.
CCC 817 - In fact, "in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame." The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ's Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism - do not occur without human sin. Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.
CCC 827 - Christ, 'holy, innocent, and undefiled,' knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal." All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners. In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time. Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ's salvation but still on the way to holiness: The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Bearing these tensions in mind the Church cannot be understood in light of the issue without the Gospel of salvation bearing in mind the need for complete and final repudiation of sins and at the same time understanding and love. St. Paul in His first letter to St. Timothy adjudicates this audience with mercy and at the same time recognizes his own struggle against sin (1 Timothy 1:13-15). There is a natural tension here which might be summarized in the following points:
Man is fallen, hurting, and surrounded by other hurting and fallen creatures which leads man into further sin. Man will hurt his fellow man only by sin.
Forgiveness does not change the past but is necessary for healing. Healing is required to attain holiness since hurts are not healed by pretending they don’t exist.
It sometimes hurts worse that someone holds themselves to higher standards and still is corrupt, but regardless of the standard they hold, they are destined to fall short of it on this side of Judgment Day. We are creatures in progress. Sometimes, it seems to be expected that it does not matter the hurt, but the only hope is behavioral change. This is untrue, conversion happens in the heart, and behavior changes thereby.
The purpose of the Church calls all to conversion and toward well-ordered living, through healing, love, forgiveness, and understanding through grace of sacraments and prayer. This is to say to give you everything you need to grow closer in likeness to God, in addition to your own will.
Therefore, people are the problem but also can be a significant part of the solution God is working on. No interpersonal problem will be resolved by caring more about events taking place than people, rather by addressing the problem with the person in both truth and understanding. Although we are constrained to be imperfect it does not
Secondly, we must see how we come to faith, if we are to understand what abandoning it looks like. we first come to God in a logical quest. Does He actually exist? Does He really love me? What will living as He would like me to look like, and am I willing to do that? If not, what would make me willing to? The role of others has import in this journey, but it is not primary. Our salvation is between God and us, even if God may use others to help us along the way. In fact, if anything, we will need to forgive and take what we are told with a grain of salt (because people are often inaccurate/insufficient in their understanding of reality). No one has a monopoly on truth to be sure, neither in science nor in theology. However, if we are to truly find what is true, we must avoid discounting truth because of its source or a faulty expression of it.
Thirdly, we shall look at how these things converge. The idea that people “get away with things” by way of forgiveness is to misunderstand the nature of human-to-human forgiveness and the idea of Divine Judgment. Human forgiveness is simply an allowance for one’s healing brought about by one’s surrender of the need for retribution to a higher power. Another layer seems to be that the truth of what the Church teaches, remains abstract or unlearned, and often, is supposed to be different than it is. This is how people can “know” the faith and not see its beauty and love. The same Jesus that said “Neither do I condemn”, ate with, loves, and died for sinners also said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". Moreover, perhaps our perspective should be less on the people but on Jesus and what He teaches which is beyond the people who preach it if it is true, yes?
In conclusion, this is a hard topic to address well since it in fact should have the deepest, most true, and most comprehensive depiction of a faith of forgiveness that does not believe in a perfect but a fallen world. We do not come to faith because of people, rather at best, God works through them. It is first about finding the truth, things conformed to realities sensible and logical, concrete and abstract. Next, if it is true that God is love let us not take for truth anything that lacks ultimate good (if not also proximate good) and love. Truly, a Catholic's love for their faith does not subsist always in the perfection of other Catholics but rather in the beauty, tangibility, goodness, and truth that it contains. This is the necessity of preventing logical fallacy in what turns into praxis. Nothing anyone says can prevent us from finding the truth (unless they confuse us ;). It should be noted as well as apparent that there is a circular problem that arises from a rash, unconvinced, and/or insufficient understanding of Church teaching as well as an encounter with Christ. It produces a cycle of expecting something different, not understanding what ought to be expected, and condemning all, that one may not be condemned. However, the very same judgment one is running from, they are exercising (the last post covers this a bit and so will the next). The solution is not instantaneous or so quickly accessed. The solution always was healing through forgiveness. Take or have them take all their hurts to the one who could never be more hurt, Who is the textbook definition of compassion since the answer was never in other sinners anyway. In doing so we can find a way to forgive the unforgiving.