When did Imperfection Become the Standard?
I know we’ve all heard it before: “It don’t take all that to be a Christian”, “I’m only human, I’m not perfect”, “I can still turn up and love Jesus”, “God is still working on me”, and my personal favorite, “God knows my heart”. These are of course all of the excuses that we as Christians give when we have sinned, are about to sin, or maybe are living in perpetual sin. You know the excuses we give to make ourselves feel better about the actions we’ve committed despite our commitment to Christ. Most times to these responses (after much prayer and learning I cannot change anyone), I reply, “its okay I’ll keep you in prayer, we are all still growing and only God can change your heart”, no judgment just genuine concern for the trajectory of their lives. However, when it is the other way around and I or fellow believers are on the other side of spectrum, clearly setting boundaries for what we will no longer do, such as drinking, or partying, cursing, pre-marital sex, lying, “popping off” at people when angry etc., I’ve found that sometimes we are judged. In fact here are some examples of how we’re seen: “holier than thou”, “so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good”, “fanatics”, “Jesus freaks”, and “extra or radical Christians” etc. And this is all inside of our own religious group! Believe it or not, but there are often rebuttals by fellow Christians when others are striving to actually live out the entire Word of God and not just the popular parts that don’t require too much change or discomfort. My question is, when did imperfection and mediocracy become the standard? When did we begin to make concessions for walking in the flesh instead of the Spirit? When did we allow ourselves to become two different sects of Christianity? The ones who acknowledge their humanity and flawed nature but then choose to do little about it, and those who have done the same but are striving to now live righteously through Christ.
None of Us Are Perfect
Now don’t take anything that I stated previously out of context. I am fully aware that none and I mean absolutely none of us walking this earth are perfect, that we will fall short, and even sin from time to time despite what we know to be the wrong path for our lives. Paul clearly outlines this truth in a couple of scriptures:
1 John 1:8-10 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us”
Romans 7:15-16; 24-25b “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. What wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Now notice how in both passages the truth of our sinful nature is on display, very plainly stated, and undisputed… oh but what do we see right after each revelation? The road to Jesus that way maker, and debt payer. Yes it is true that none of us are sinless, faultless, or flawless, but as Christians, through Christ we can seek forgiveness through repentance, and then begin braving the road to gradual and sustainable change. Where do we find this change or model to what we should look like as a Christian? It is not found amongst ourselves and who you see to be the “best” Christian, no my friend, we have to go back to the source, Jesus Christ Himself.
Jesus is the Standard
Instead of looking to our own frail humanity as the standard for what a Christian should be, we must go back to the basics. Imperfection cannot be the pillar we choose to stand on and the security blanket we choose to wrap ourselves in to comfort us in times of guilt and shame. How do we strive to be more like Jesus and truly make Him the standard without being hypocritical to others, un-relatable, or just plain ol’ weird? First, we understand what a standard is.
- a level of quality or attainment.
- an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations.
- used or accepted as normal or average.
Kanón: a rule, regulation, rule of conduct or doctrine
Once we understand this we don’t try to reinvent the wheel! We glean from His life and we ask Him for guidance on how to live one reflective of the very ones He died for. Jesus did not die for us to live in bondage to our sins and enslave others who are trying themselves not to do so. In fact I am sure many of us know the very familiar passage of scripture that tells us exactly what He came for; “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life; and have it to the full (John 10:10).” We can tap into that full life He intended for us by using His principles and striving to be more like Him daily. I don’t care how much of a role model a certain Christian may be, even the greatest bible character, no mere mortal can be our standard. So what standards do we see from Jesus in the Word?
- How to overcome and respond temptation– Jesus was tempted by the devil after He had just spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness without any food. When the enemy tried to entice Jesus to go against His father and worship him, Jesus responded with scripture and the devil left Him. Some of us may be thinking well He’s Jesus and He’s perfect so of course He can overcome temptation but it’s harder for me. ” We are reminded through His life that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).” Furthermore 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” How do we get help from God to overcome this temptation? Simple, Jesus reminds us “Pray that you will not fall into temptation (Luke 22:40b). Prayer is the key!
- How to pray and maintain an intimate relationship with our Father: Obviously Jesus teaches us all how to pray by outlining the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Additionally Jesus gave us examples through his consistent quiet time with His Father. Jesus understood the importance of breaking away from crowd, your job, family, thoughts, what have you, and just spending precious time in the presence of the Lord. We see Jesus do this very thing in Luke 5:15-16, “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Matthew 14:23 tells us “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone.” In Matthew 26:36 we see “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Then in yet another verse we see Jesus instruct the disciples and now He is doing the same for us “But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:6).”
- How to treat and love others– Jesus left us with multiple commands on how to love one another. John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” In another passage Jesus says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12).”
Keep Striving Until He Returns
There should never be a time where we settle for where we are right now in our faith. I do not care if you are a giant in the body of Christ and are anointed for such a time as this, you still have more to do, a higher level to achieve in your relationship with God, more to learn, and more to share with others. Paul is one of the greatest characters in the Word and even he had to confess, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and staining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14). Not only must we be realistic with our own personal journeys, we must love one another and encourage others to be all they can be in Christ. There is no division in the body of Christ. We are one and all being changed and made over by God daily. 12:1b-2 is what our hearts posture should be; “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Until next time, whatever you do, do it ALL for the glory of God.