I think one of the biggest turn-offs to the Christian faith (or any faith for that matter) is the notion of perfection, or at least the pursuit of it. If religion isn’t your thing, it’s probably because you sense this undercurrent, an unspoken rule of always trying to be better than you are now no matter how you are now. It’s never good enough. Guilt always lies in wait. The thing is, you are keenly aware of your own imperfection. You’re not trying to hide it, just tired of it being called out when you know, ultimately, there’s not much you can do about it. Maybe you volunteer at the local shelter or the neighborhood kids club, which is a great help to them, plus makes you feel better for a while. But it’s not long before that nagging feeling comes along that it’s not enough, that you can do better, be better. Who needs religion to tell me I’m not good enough when my own guilt adequately performs the task?
Many modern believers have sensed this frustration amongst non-believers and have sought to bridge the gap with a more “authentic” approach to religion. Their goal is simply to be honest about their imperfections and to communicate God’s love despite them. They try to avoid the term “sin” (though that’s a legitimate term) and sometimes go as far as embracing imperfection, knowing that God’s love covers it anyway. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t actually address our imperfection. They’d rather accept it or rename it, though they can never deny it’s existence. To them, it’s simply a complex issue that we’re not suited to deal with fully, and in the end falls under the all-forgiving umbrella of grace.
To be fair, there’s much to be desired with an authentic approach. Realizing and owning your imperfections is indeed healthy as it keeps your ego in check and perspective proper. Simply owning imperfection, however, does nothing for it or you ultimately. Being content with it’s presence, you’ll soon forget that it’s still present. Certainly that’s tolerable if you don’t call it out as a problem. But the reality is that it is a problem, which deep down you can understand without the aid of a theologian. So authenticity is great, as long as your aim is to be authentic with the entirety of the issue, the problem and the solution.
So why is imperfection a problem? Since no one is perfect then we’re all on the same level, so why does it have to be an issue at all? Because if we are ever to look beyond ourselves and consider God, and if he really is GOD, then he must be perfect. Anything less and he’s just one of us, a god of our own making after our own image. This isn’t a god you want to worship. Then you run across bible verses like this: “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ ” (1 Peter 1.15-16) Talk about an impossible standard! Not only is God perfect, but he expects the same from me?! For many this is the breaking point, whether you’ve read the bible or not. Verses like this seem to only confirm your innate frustration, that you’re doomed to your imperfection.
Don’t worry though, God doesn’t leave you here, even though I’ll leave the discussion here for now. There’s plenty of good news next time. But for now, and if you’ve never done so, take the time to consider the depth of your imperfection, especially in comparison to the depth of God’s perfection. Can that gap be overcome? (spoiler: yes)
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