Recently, the conversation of perfection came up with the students of my church. We were discussing the perception of the church as a place of hypocrites versus the idea of the church as a bunch of sinners saved by grace. This conversation reminded me of when I played basketball in high school. My coach instituted a team motto that said “we strive for perfection, so that we may hit excellence.” His point was that we will never, ever play a truly perfect game – individually or as a team. Despite this fact, we aim for perfection. That is our goal. That is what we want. In aiming for that target, we may very well play excellent – not perfect but excellent. We would limit turnovers, share the ball, play solid defense, cheer our teammates on, and win games.
Too often, this idea of being perfect pervades its way into the church body. We say we are sinners saved by grace but want everyone to be perfect. Several years ago, I met a man in a fast food restaurant and had this very conversation with him. He was looking for a church home, and he was disappointed that he could not find the perfect church. He critiqued things like the pastor’s preaching, the music selection, the length of the service, and the way the people treated him when he visited. Then he said it, “I know I’m not perfect though.” The Lord prompted me with a question for him, “Even if you could find the perfect church – the perfect people, the perfect pastor/preacher, the perfect programs, the perfect music, etc. – wouldn’t that church immediately become imperfect when you walked in it, since you admit you are not perfect?”
This man responded affirmatively, and admitted he had never thought of it that way before. I admit to you now – neither had I. And this brings us to the point, we all want perfection from our neighbors, our families, our churches, our jobs, and everything and everyone else, but then we want people to be forgiving and understanding of our imperfections – because “nobody’s perfect.” Christians and non-Christians alike use this phrasing, so clearly, we all understand what the Bible says in Romans “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
In all of history, only one man, never sinned. That man is Jesus – God in flesh. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” If we all have sinned, we all deserve death and eternal separation from He who is perfect and holy. Only one who is perfect can stand in the presence of pure holiness. Knowing this, God came down to earth to intercede for us. He appeared in the flesh, who we know as Jesus, and paid the price for our sin by dying on the cross willingly. However, He didn’t stay dead. He rose from the dead and demonstrated that He is more powerful than death, sin and Satan. He then made it clear that everyone who puts their faith and trust in Jesus will have eternal life. Eternity with God the Father in heaven!
We all demand perfection from others in various ways, but the truth is that only one is perfect, God. Because of God’s love for us, He has given us the way to be reconciled to Him and be with Him in eternity. We love Him, confess our sins, believe in the grace He showed us on the cross, and commit our life to Him. This is not a checklist of how to earn salvation – this is the nuance of what it means to put your faith and trust in Christ and live in obedience to Him through the power of His Spirit.
Our worldly contradiction of perfection has created more problems for us personally, with others, and in the church. Today, I encourage you to seek the perfection that is Christ. The church should be “a hospital for the sinners, not a sanctuary for the saints.” Let us truly be a body of Jesus-followers that are sinners saved by grace and share the message of grace and hope found in Jesus to those who are broken and hurting. Anyway, I was just thinking…