Has this ever happened to you? You had a bad weekend, and you regret some of your decisions, but when you get to the church, you smile and pretend that everything is great. Or, you are feeling terrible about some of the decisions you made and the consequences of those decisions, but when someone asks about Christian life, you tell them about the joy of having Jesus guide you through your life.
We are trying to come to terms with our frailties as humans and being God’s people on the earth. Our difficulties are compounded by verses in the Bible that seem to say that we must be perfect. Christian life just seems impossible.
In Deuteronomy 18:13, Moses tells people that “You must be perfect before your God.” In Matthew 5:48, Jesus finishes his teaching on loving our enemies and says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Also, earlier in Matthew 5, Jesus also taught that if we break any one of the laws, then we will be least in the kingdom of God.
Some people have translated these verses literally and developed a theology that says we can become perfect. This is usually judged by how “holy” behavior appears and how well we measure up to their standard of holiness. The Puritans and Quakers were the best-known groups in history that focused on outer appearances as a measurement of holiness. They appeared to have believed that if others do not see your sin, then you don’t sin.
This push for perfection – which is impossible – leaves many Christians feeling alienated from Jesus. Too often, we feel like a “fake” because we know our failures, but we come to the church believing that we have to appear “holy.” We push aside our need for genuine human and spiritual connections with one another, and we “play a game” of Christianity, acting holy.
However, the words of Jesus calling us to be more “holy” are still true, and “growing” in Jesus still implies being more like Jesus. The call for us is not only in our appearances in public but about our hearts being influenced by Jesus. Our holiness is measured by how we love God with all our hearts and minds, how we love our neighbor as ourselves, and how we accept all aliens as citizens.
Being perfect is not about appearance but about the change of our hearts. May we be more perfect in Jesus as we allow the Spirit of God to lead and guide us in our journey of being changed by God into the image of Jesus. Let us be God’s people.