“Salvation, offered by the Church, does not lie in the moral improvement of people, as it is often claimed. The Church has in her bosom so many people with moral shortcomings, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: “If you bite and devour each other, watch out not
to exterminate each other”.
In this context, the question of holiness is asked. It is thought that the sanctity is identified with moral perfection. Even the holiness of God is presented in textbooks of Dogmatics as a moral perfection (e.g. Andrucos, Trembelas etc.). However, it disagrees not only with what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letters, calling believers “saints”, despite what he says about them, as we can see in the example of the Galatians, but also with the entire history of our Church. Thus the Byzantine emperors, such as Constantine the Great, Saint Irena of Athens and so on, we recognize as saints, despite the fact that they did things incompatible with the principles of morality. St Irena blinded her son; the Holy Prophet Elijah slew five hundred priests of god Baal, etc. Based on today’s moral criteria, many of the saints of our Church would have been excluded. The Church consecrates us not on our moral improvement, but on the basis of repentance, i.e. confirmation that our sinfulness is an ontological reality. This explains the justification of publicans and condemnation of the morally perfect Pharisees.”
The above quote is taken from a paper written by Metropolitan John Ziziulas Ontology and Ethics which can be accessed here