Atheists like Christopher Hitchens often argue that if God really exists, then why are so many religious people unhappy, partisan, mean-spirited and even sometimes violent?
They have a point. But it’s based on a false assumption. The assumption is this: if a real God really operates in a person’s life, then that person will be perfect, living as if he or she is already in Paradise, without any temptation to sin or moral failings.
This spiritually naive view can’t grasp a basic phenomenon of interaction between God and man. That basic phenomenon is this – a man who walks with God, still walks on this earth. He is still human. And he has a spiritual enemy called Satan, who is trying to win him back to the dark side.
Trying to live the religious life on this fallen planet can be messy. That’s because the spiritual quest to know God is a human endeavor. Although a real God is in it, so are real humans.
I know what you’re thinking. Some claim the Name but don’t walk the talk. Not all believers try sincerely. Hypocrisy abounds, but hypocritical behavior itself is a spiritual illness. Even if you subtract the hypocrites (which the Lord Himself will do – Matthew 13:24-43), that still leaves many sincere believers who struggle. Spiritual life on this planet doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but in the middle of flawed human life.
Even prayer is a human exercise, finite man trying to communicate with the Infinite. Sometimes it can be sublime; sometimes it fails miserably.
And it fails, not because God isn’t powerful enough, but because even redeemed man still has a sometimes-stubborn will. And God won’t violate that sacred thing He created in us called sovereignty – our freedom of choice.
All of Jesus’ great disciples, from Peter to John to Barnabus to Paul, exhibited flaws. The Bible pull no punches, but shows all the Messiah’s followers to be human, moral warts and all.
In fact, Jesus didn’t die for our good deeds but for our sins. He knew what He was getting. He isn’t naive about who we are, yet He died for us anyway. And He continues to work with us despite the flaws, mistakes, sins, missteps and spiritual ignorance… and even those days when we don’t feel like praying.