Recently a friend whose family has experienced long term health challenges voiced disappointment with the ensuing lack of social support. Wrapped within this disappointment was a negative critique of religion.
They have without doubt experienced terrible pain and loneliness throughout their ordeal. There are no adequate words that can bring comfort to such a situation. But I did attempt to provide my understanding of the Christian community’s challenge and response to situations such as theirs.
One thing that comes to mind is that my Christian faith is built on a tragic understanding of the human condition. That is, I understand human beings to be spiritually and morally fallen creatures who can only be redeemed by an unmerited act of grace by a merciful God. Given our fallenness, we Christians see ourselves to be in need of spiritual and moral regeneration that occurs only partially in this life. Thus we seek to build Christian communities in which the acts of mercy and giving that you found so wanting are taught and encouraged. It takes decades, even generations, for these lessons to grow into the new lives and new cultures that conform more closely with Christ’s character.
This tragic viewpoint doesn’t excuse moral failure. Rather, it seeks to honestly face up to the nature of the challenge when we seek to build more caring, giving people and communities. We also know that even the most faithful Christian communities will yet be burdened by jealousy, selfishness, dishonesty and many other faults. We thus will always fall short of the ideal to which we aspire.
My Christian faith doesn’t immediately make me more moral than all non-Christians and I am not a Christian because of any inherent moral superiority. Rather, I am a Christian because God through Christ has made known to me his love and mercy. He calls me to respond in thankfulness and faithfulness to this saving act in my life.
I have tried to be a supportive friend in this case and am occasionally useful in this regard to others. But I am exceedingly thankful for Christians who have devoted themselves to that great calling of mercy towards and comfort to those suffering illness.