The following little message was posted on facebook by a popular Christian TV minister:
“God knows we're not perfect. We all have faults and weaknesses and make mistakes, but God loves us anyway.”The concepts expressed here are not controversial among modern Christians. The fact that we aren't perfect is completely correct, of course, as is the fact that we have faults and make mistakes. The fact that God loves us despite these faults and mistakes is also completely true.
So, what’s wrong with this seemingly harmless statement of facts? What’s wrong is what’s been left out, and the conclusions that the reader of such a statement is likely to draw from it.
Today’s Christians are likely to easily, perhaps too easily, embrace the idea that imperfection, faults, weaknesses and mistakes are so natural to our Nature that we are bound, in all senses of that word, as moral slaves – to continue wallowing in them and never overcome them.
The old bumper sticker slogan that “Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven,” is typical of this sentiment. The idea that we are destined by fate (and by our “flesh”) to continue to sin, is baked into the Christian message so thoroughly that it seems entirely natural that this is the message Jesus brought to us: “we are all sinners, but not to worry, we’re forgiven.”
Martin Luther wrote that we should give up all hope of not sinning: “Be a sinner, and let your sins be BOLD. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides.:
Period. End of message. Right? Not quite.
In truth, the message that Jesus preached – for which he was chosen, adopted and anointed by God as His only Son, and sent by Him to preach to the world – was not to simply accept us for who we are, it was to challenge us to strive to become morally perfect HERE, just as God is perfect IN HEAVEN.
While it’s obviously true that we will always stumble, make mistakes and fall short of God’s full glory, we are to always strive towards that Goal – the Goal that Jesus sets for us and knows we can achieve, in a way we don't even suspect we are able to achieve.
Striving for the Kingdom of God, by repenting of our sins, pursuing righteousness through good works in the name of God, and following the perfect path of Jesus, all the while seeking God’s forgiveness for our shortcomings – this is the path Jesus set out for us to follow.
Not only must we seek God’s forgiveness, we are required as a condition of receiving that forgiveness the granting of others forgiveness when they offend us.
God does not wish us to remain “just as we are” in terms of our actions, attitudes and shortcomings, He wishes us to achieve the fullness of what He, our Creator, knows we CAN be. Since the dawn of human history, God has known all about human beings, and of what we are capable. He knows we can obey Him, and that we have done so repeatedly in past generations, just as He knows we are free to disobey His commandments.
God chose and sent Jesus, His Anointed Prophet, to proclaim this Good and Beneficial Message (Gospel) to us, and to be a perfect example in his teachings, life and death that we should know it can be done by a human being. By becoming Jesus Followers, we accept the challenge Jesus gives to us to take up our cross and follow him and pursue God’s righteousness.
“You are to be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Mark 6:14-15
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” Luke 4:18
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 5:16
“Yahweh dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of Yahweh, and have not wickedly departed from my God.” Psalms 18:20-21
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” 1 John 2:1
“Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.” 1 John 3:7