Seth Godin blogs about Authenticity. He starts out by illustrating authenticity:
If it acts like a duck (all the time), it’s a duck. Doesn’t matter if the duck thinks it’s a dog, it’s still a duck as far as the rest of us are concerned.
Later Seth writes a provocative statement, referencing Mother Teresa’s confessions in her posthumanous letters published in Mother Teresa: Come be my Light, The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta:
Mother Teresa was an atheist, filled with self doubt. But she was an authentic saint, because she always acted like one.
Was Mother Teresa an atheist just authentically acting like a saint?
The Lord knows, and it’s not my intention to look at Mother Teresa; a woman used by God to extend his love to the poor in Calcutta.
My question is broader: Are we atheists that are now saints because we authentically act like saints all the time? What happens if I flip the question around: Are we Christians (saints) if we do not act like a saint all the time, are not always authentic, in fact, often hypocritical?
We are sinners and our righteous deeds are like polluted garments.
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. Isaiah 64:6
We are like the lepers of Calcutta that Mother Teresa loved; infected and infectious. But as a leper, if we act clean, look clean and free of disease – all the time: Are we no longer infectious and infected lepers? The better question is: Can an atheist become a saint, not based on a lifetime of good works, but based on God declaring us justified and righteous in Christ, based not on our goodness but Christ’s? Metaphorically, can a dog become a duck based on Christ’s righteousness – even though it is a dog that often acts more like a dog than a duck?
Our saintly actions do not clean us from our disease, our self-doubt, our sin. We need Christ’s righteousness. Until we are clothed with his perfect righteousness and our sins are forgiven, cast as far as the east is from the west, God’s wrath is absorbed and the plenty for our sin has been paid – only then, are we “saints”. Sin still lives on, but no longer are we slaves to sin (Romans 6:16-22) Sometimes we don’t act like saints, walk like saints, smell like saints and sadly look more like dogs than saints. But because of Christ’s righteousness and the faith he has given us by his grace, we have truly become authentic saints. Day-by-day he renews our mind and grants us his sanctifying mercy as he changes us to act more like ducks (saints) – all the time. (I Timothy 1:12-17)
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