There is more joy in heaven over a converted sinner than over a righteous person standing firm.
A leader in battle has more love for a soldier who returns after fleeing, and who valiantly pursues the enemy, than for one who never turned back, but who never acted valiantly either.
A farmer has greater love for land which bears fruitfully, after he has cleared it of thorns, than for land which never had thorns but which never yielded a fruitful harvest.
- St Gregory the Great
At first glance, this appears that God loves the broken more than the holy. Ah...but what we think is holy and what God considers holy are worlds apart. Trying hard to be holy does not constitute holiness. Doing "holy" things does not confer holiness. Embracing holy thoughts does not give birth to holiness. Holiness cannot be copied or manufactured. Only God can impart holiness and righteousness. Only he can bring out true love, grace and mercy in our lives. There is only one source of these heavenly, holy virtues - God himself. There are no shortcuts. There are no substitutions. You have to have the genuine article or else it's a cheap imitation.
But we don't like this pathway! It's painful, humiliating and degrading. If I choose this road, it will be filled with insecurity, vulnerability, humility, and weakness. How could that be good? This flies in the face of all we have been taught in the American culture about freedom, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and wealth. There really is a "fork in the road" and there really are 2 very opposite journeys. We have the choice. Our sense of logic and rationality cannot grasp that brokenness, contrition and servant hood could be the best position for life. Society calls us "losers" and "unambitious." We become a "drag" on the upwardly mobile and the fiercely independent. We don't want to be reminded of human weakness, failures or faults.
But God...God's power and love blazes forth in the midst of this environment. The soil is ripe and fertilized, ready for tremendous growth and fruition. Now he can do mighty works and bring many more to himself for salvation and redemption. Pulling the thorns and getting bloody, admitting failure and standing up again, asking for forgiveness and apologizing, being willing to give up the comfortable and satisfying - these are the things that produce great results, great glory and great joy. It's counter intuitive, I know. But it's all a part of God's upside down kingdom. This truism is repeated over and over by the church fathers and the martyrs who lived it and saw the reality in their own lives.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
[Paul speaking to the Corinthians]