No one who is born of God continues to sin (1 John 3:6). ‘Be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ (Matthew 5:48)
We don’t strive for imperfection. It is a natural occurrence. Imperfection is our failure to succeed in our goals or it may be the undesirable qualities in our character such as flaws or inadequacies or such.
We tend to think of our imperfections as failings or even sin but in truth they are part of the maturation process that God is working in our lives. We may be made righteous in God’s judgment when we are in Christ but for the rest of our lives remains the process of sanctification. Becoming more like the God, in whose image we are made, is an ongoing process.
The image of God is not completely erased in humanity though it has been defaced sometimes to the point of being unrecognizable. It is under the shadow of sin whereby we see dimly as in a dirty mirror. Yet, by placing our confidence in Christ, we are ‘new creations.’ (2Cor. 5:17) Accordingly, the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that God remembers our sin no more under the new covenant. (Hebrews 8:12)
In the Fall of humankind creation has distanced itself from the creator, but through Christ we are finding our way back. And the Grace of God in Christ back sustains the way.
I think of Christians as slightly imperfect in their walk, in that sin is still a part of our lives. However, God doesn’t see us as our sin but through the work, the sacrifice of his Son Jesus. Slightly imperfect means we don’t have it all together, we are not as mature as we could be. We are a work, God’s work, in progress, ever moving forward. In some respects our lives might even be a mess but we are God’s mess delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s son. (Colossians 1:13)
While some people might not find value in us, God does. He loves us immeasurably. Even the hairs on our head are numbered. That’s his intimate value and knowledge of us.
But here’s the thing. Our flesh, our ego, that natural part of us, still sometimes deeply affects our relationship with God. We say we trust God but we worry. We are greedy. We are fearful and rebellious. But by God’s grace we are ever more steadily making our way into the rightful Kingdom. Luther once wrote that we are sinners and saints at the same time. Jesus tells us to be perfect. Our life’s work is in understanding that maturity and living into it.
Let’s take a modern example to illustrate what this all means. If we have an addiction problem we go to the ‘rooms’ where others are dealing with the same struggle. And the only requirement to be there is the desire to stop the addiction, the behavior that is ruining us. One can actually go to an A.A. meeting intoxicated if he or she really wants to stop drinking.
Now I figure it is no less meaningful for the sinner who goes before God, to be able to say, ‘I want to stop sinning and follow Jesus more closely. That’s my greatest wish. I desire forgiveness and new life’. That is an imperfect Christian on the right path to God’s perfection. Much as Paul meant when he wrote ‘work out your salvation in fear and trembling because God is at work in you to bring about the best according to God’s will.’ (Philippians 2:12,13)
The imperfect Christian is allowed by GRACE to struggle without shame and doubt but is transparent about these issues before other trustworthy brothers and sisters. They believe their sins are forgiven but their memory of their sins is better than God’s memory of their sins.
The imperfect Christian is willing to engage in the disciplines of the Christ life. Prayer, reading scripture, worship, loving others and more are exercises that will help the follower. Jesus will strengthen his or her faith, trust and confidence. The imperfect Christian will seek knowledge not for its own sake but so that such wisdom will help them grow. Christ’s gracious call is to take his yoke upon ourselves for the purpose of training us to live our lives with him, by him and through him. There is a bumper sticker, which proclaims ‘Not perfect just forgiven’. That is a loophole for not trying our best. It is a statement that we are forgiven and going to heaven; but there is a lot of life to be lived in the meantime.
Recall Jesus words in Matthew 5:48. ‘Be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ Jesus spoke those words with regards to loving our enemies, those who annoy irritate or even abuse us. Being perfect means being the best we can be. For example, if you are a carpenter just starting out you want to frame a house as best you can. Taking shortcuts is not an option. And while you may not be as good as a 30 year veteran you still do your best. That is if you are going to stay in business. The same would go for a teacher, a mom or a dad or anyone with any integrity. And as Christians we strive for our best but do not feel shame when our best might not on par with say, wait for it,… Jesus.
We are on a path, following the Son of God who has called us to place our confidence in him. It was late Christian songwriter, Keith Green, who sang the words, ‘you give God your best and he’ll take care of the rest’. The Christian is called to strive for the prize. (Philippians 3:14) We are urged to press on. And when we fall we pick ourselves up and get back in the race. (Thank you, Frank Sinatra)
But we don’t beat ourselves up. We don’t live in guilt and wallow in shame. And if our fall is, in our own mind, a sin- then we confess that to God and know, really know, that we are forgiven and thus freed to live for Christ.
I want you to imagine a relationship between two people in love where neither has expectations for the other, where neither keeps score of any wrongs that occur. This is the state of the person who is ‘in Christ’ and thereby in union with God. And this position of salvation and life is sustained and maintained by the grace of the Father. The Bible says that we are already seated with Christ in the heavenly place. (Ephesians 2:6) which I take to mean, ‘out of harms way’ in terms of any kind of judgment. So we are truly freed from having to ‘feel’ like we should be better than we are trying our best to be.
Let’s consider the analogy of an electrician who is mentoring an apprentice. The mentor states that all that is needed is the apprentice’s trust and best effort. At their first meeting it is agreed that the degree and job are guaranteed. Of course there will be direction and even correction and warnings here and there but the covenant has been established and will not be broken. So too God is not breaking his covenant with us because it is Jesus who has sealed that covenant in his own blood.
All this gives us the freedom to live for Christ because at the heart of it all is the truth that it is not we who are living this life, but it is Christ who is living it in us. (Galatians 2:20)