Good People are Neither Easy nor Impossible to Find
American Christians can be divided between those who believe a good person is easy to find and those who believe a good person is impossible to find. Those who believe good people are easy to find frequently take stances along the lines of “I’m not perfect — God is not finished with me yet.” Thus we’re all as good as can be expected at the moment, and additional goodness will just naturally happen as God does the heavy lifting for us. Those who believe good people are impossible to find invariably cite the Psalmist’s claim that “None is righteous,” thus the struggle for virtue is always doomed for failure. Such Christians ignore entirely the handful of people in Scripture who are declared righteous.
However, since good people can be found — though neither common nor non-existent — then an uncomfortable challenge is placed before us to seek virtue which God has neither forbidden us from finding, nor rendered us incapable of receiving.
Chesterton once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” The idea that virtue is rare offends us not for theological reasons, but because people convince themselves they are more tired than they actually are. Every adult has seen happy, lively fourth-graders become suddenly sluggish when they are told it is time for chores. Adults are much the same way, although a pack of adults will become absolutely ferocious when told their condition is not actually as debilitating as they have asserted. As if our little neuroses, addictions, and conditions really do excuse us from an austere struggle to achieve goodness, and the only people who say otherwise are cruel, exacting Scrooges whose shriveled hearts are incapable of sympathy. In this view, “be holy as I am holy” is not a command, but a taunt issued to prove the universal spiritual sterility of human beings.
Like Dante in the first canto of the Comedy, we want salvation from the dark wood, but upon seeing the harrowing path, we shrink and say the challenge is too great.