Can you live a good life without being Orthodox?
Something can only truly be called ‘good’ if it is agreement with Orthodoxy, but this does not mean that ‘good’ cannot exist outside the Church. The Holy Spirit is everywhere present and fills all things; when non-Orthodox people perform truly good actions they are opening their hearts to the Holy Spirit and allowing their conscience to act properly.
However, not all deeds that appear ‘good’ are, in fact, good in a spiritual sense. For example, we might help someone with the secret hope that we might receive something in return; we might give money to charity to earn praise from others for doing so. To use an extreme example, someone losing their life to save a child from drowning, is very different to a terrorist committing suicide.
We can say that living an Orthodox life allows us to perceive actions as they really are: a gift known as ‘discernment’. As we grow in the Orthodox spiritual life by praying, fasting, and love of neighbour we also grow in discernment. We are all sinners, and the Orthodox Church is not a club for do-gooders but a hospital for sinners. We hope that we can do the good that is defined as such by the Church, but we acknowledge that we ourselves are sinners and have merely tried to do what it us our duty to do.
Many members of other religions, agnostics and atheists dedicate their lives to helping the poor and disadvantaged. Are their sacrifices worthless? Of course not. We believe, however, that only in the Orthodox Church can we come to know God. Only in the Church can we become gods by grace.