Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: perfection

God loves messed up people

Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Abram was ready to sacrifice his wife to the lusts of powerful men to save his own skin. Jacob gained his brother’s birthright by dubious means, and with his mother’s connivance. David had way too many wives. These were the kind of people God used to accomplish His plans here on earth. A disagreement arose between Paul and Barnabas so that they could not work together. Both died as martyrs for the cause of Christ.

Rahab helped the Israelite spies get safely out of Jericho, the Bible calls her a prostitute. Ruth got under the covers with Boaz out in the harvest field. Bathsheba had a one night stand with King David and he arranged the death of her husband in consequence. These are the three women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew.

God blesses and works with people who are deeply flawed. There are no other kind of people for Him to work with. If we think we are better, we put ourselves in the category of the Pharisees who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. Jesus called them white washed sepulchres – pure and clean on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones and filth inside.

I am not better than the people I have already named, or all the other messed up people described in the Bible. I have repented, I have been forgiven, but I am still a messed up person who messes up far too often when I am trying to do good. But I don’t hear God screaming at me every time I make a mistake “You idiot! You made a mess of things again!” He tells me that it was good that I tried and that He wants me to keep on trying.

The accusations come from another source, the accuser of the brethren. If I listen to him I won’t have the courage to try to do anything good again.

The Bible tells us we need to be perfect. Some people have devised a doctrine whereby they believe they have had a second touch from the Lord, a second work of grace, and now they don’t sin anymore. I’ve met people like that. They didn’t seem like the kind of people I’d want to go to if I was troubled.

The perfection the Bible speaks of is maturity. Perfect means complete, not flawless. Biblical perfection is taking responsibility for what we do. When I do something bad, it was not Tommy, or Suzy, or the devil, who made me do it. I did it all by myself and I need to own up to it.

When David numbered the people and God gave him a choice of punishments to be visited upon the people, he responded “I have sinned, but what have these sheep done?” That is maturity, or perfection. That is why David was a man after God’s own heart.

Isaiah said “I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.”  I often mess up and hurt other people by the things I say and do. Other people often hurt me by the things they say and do. That’s life. That’s why Jesus instructed us to pray that God would forgive us as we forgive others. Forgiveness can’t just be between me and God. I need to forgive others for every careless word and deed they do.

All unrighteousness is sin. But not all is deliberate, not in the things we do or in the things others do. We are messed up, every one of us, and God loves each one of us. Let’s just forgive and move on.

Jesus told the Pharisees that the prostitutes and publicans would find it easier to enter the kingdom of heaven than they would. We may look at the people who are leading honest and orderly lives and think they are the ideal mission prospects. In all likelihood they are quite content with the results of their own efforts and don’t see any need to repent and trust in the blood of Jesus. A few will, just as some of the Pharisees did.

But we should not expect converts to present themselves to us in neat, gift-wrapped packages. Most often their lives, their feelings and their ideas about themselves, and about God and Christianity, will be in turmoil. These are the ones who know that things are  not right, that they need help. The challenges they present do not have easy answers. Let’s remember that God loves messed up people. After all, He has accepted us. All we need to do is listen to them and listen to God. He is the one who has the answers, we don’t.

The mommy cat did it

I was visiting with my neighbour’s one hot Sunday afternoon, sitting outside with them on the shady side of the house by the back door.  Their children were playing around us and going in and out the door.  After a while, a half-grown kitten came out the door and we all took note that the hair along its back had been roughly shorn off.

“Who did that?”, demanded the mother.

“I think the mommy cat did,” responded their four year old daughter.

She was innocent enough to think this might sound like a reasonable possibility, and seemed surprised that her mother considered her answer a dead giveaway.  When tufts of hair and a pair of scissors were found on a bed, and Mom expressed her certainty that the mommy cat did not do it, the little girl confessed that it was indeed she who had done it.

The tendency to want to blame someone else when things go wrong stays with us as we grow older.  We just learn to make more reasonable sounding excuses.  A few days ago I saw a greeting card in a store, with the grand-daddy of all excuses: “Counselling has taught me that it’s not my fault.”

The Bible instructs us in many places to be perfect.  Our tendency is to assume that perfect means without fault, which we know to be impossible, so we say this speaks of the perfection of Christ which is imputed to us.  It is true that our sins are covered by the blood of Christ, but I believe these passages are speaking of something else.

The root meaning of perfect is thoroughly done.  Likewise, the Greek words translated perfect mean have the meaning of complete or fully grown.  In the following verses, a Greek word that is translated perfect in other places is translated men and of full age.

Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.  (1 Corinthians 14:20)

But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.  (Hebrews 5:14)

As I read these, and other verses that speak of being perfect, it seems that we are being admonished to be mature and accountable.  A perfect man then would not be one who always does things just right, but one who accepts responsibility for his actions and doesn’t try to blame the mommy cat.  One who admits when he has done wrong, confesses it and tries to make amends.

Is there any other kind of man (or woman) that God can use?

Be Perfect

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect . . . (1 Corinthians 2:6).
Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11).
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2Timothy 3:17).

The Bible admonishes us to be perfect and seems to assume that a well-grounded Christian is perfect.  What was God thinking?  It is impossible for us to live without ever making an unkind remark when we are frustrated and impatient or without making even worse mistakes.

A little searching reveals that the original meaning of perfect, when speaking of things, is complete, or finished.  When speaking of people it means mature, adult, fully-grown.  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).  In the margin of the Cambridge Reference Bible “perfect” is given as an alternate reading for “of full age.”

I once spent a morning as an observer in a Montreal criminal court.  The first case involved a young couple, dressed hippy-style, who were charged with smashing a store window and stealing some items.  Their lawyer asked for a one week delay to give his clients time to make restitution, and then they would return and plead guilty.  I wish I could have observed what transpired the following week, but I suspect that if they followed through on those commitments they probably got off with a suspended sentence and a recommendation to “Go and sin no more”.

Next up was a young man charged with break and enter.  His lawyer portrayed his client as an innocent man who was led into this compromising situation by a friend.  The judge didn’t buy it.  The young man went to jail.

A perfect man is one who accepts responsibility for his own actions.  He makes mistakes, but does not try to blame them on others, on circumstances, on his upbringing, his temperament or psychological state of mind, or on any other excuse that may present itself as an escape route.

When we stand before the judge of all mankind, excuses and explanations will be of no value.  The perfect man is one who realizes this today and acts accordingly.

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