Welcome to Real Life. What does it mean to be a perfect Christian?
“I don’t always go the extra mile,
but when I do it’s because I missed my exit.”
On Antiques Roadshow, specialists appraise the antiques, fine art, and collectibles of ordinary people. When they re-air older episodes, they re-evaluate an item’s worth. Because surprisingly, some collectibles lose value with age. Today’s generation doesn’t want their parents’ Hummels.
Jesus Christ shook up the religious community when he failed to value what they did. Repeatedly, he used the phrase, “You have heard that it was said… But I tell you…” Because as a religious community, we tend to pile on rules and expectations and practices that appear spiritual, but don’t always originate in the heart or word of God. It’s easy to veer off the path. We lose the plot. We strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Thereby, Jesus was continually deconstructing man-made faith.
Deconstructing faith can be healthy. Occasionally, it’s good to ask, “Why do we do this?” As a young woman, I began to feel the pressure of meeting Christian cultural expectations. Was I doing, serving, giving enough? After all, Jesus said, “Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Paradoxically, the harder I strived to attain what I perceived to be Christian perfection, the further I moved from the heart of God. I veered off the path. I began to believe God was harsh and unfair. Why would He require perfection of humans flawed and frail? Something was wrong. I deconstructed my perception of perfect by returning to the source:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus peals back perfection to the core of love. (Because, after all, sin is a heart issue.) The question is not whether I am doing, serving, or giving enough. Rather, am I loving enough? For love motivates us to do what is good and right.
It’s easy to love the good and kind. But to love those who oppose us, those who make life difficult… Isn’t this also an unfair, impossible ask? It is, apart from God. When His love fills and overflows our hearts, His Spirit empowers us to do the impossible. Turn the other cheek. Walk the extra mile. Pray for those who despitefully use us.
Since God loves his enemies, clearly his love does not demand perfection. God loves us fully and completely amidst all our imperfections! Perfect love is full of grace.
Some believe today’s church is too focused on love. I beg to differ—especially over the last few turbulent years. “By this,” Jesus said, “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you
judge harshly, condemn your opposition, and break fellowship over peripheral issues
love one another.”
Perhaps it’s time for some healthy deconstruction. At the core of our faith, may we find the heart of God. A heart that loves perfectly. A heart that loves enemies. A heart that bled to save the world!
For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.
(John 3:16–17 NIV emphasis mine)
Thank you for loving us just as we are
With all our imperfections.
Help us love others
Just as they are with all their imperfections.
Expand our hearts and our capacity to love.
We want to love fully and maturely—like you do.
Empower us by your Spirit to love difficult people,
Those who oppose us, those we consider enemies.
Remind us. Before we knew you,
We were enemies of the cross, and yet you loved us!
Oh, how you love us! Amen.
Taking it further…
To be clear, it is God’s will that every Christian lives a holy life. But again, sin is a heart problem. The essence of holiness is a pure heart. Righteousness apart from love is legalism. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second greatest is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the law and prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:36-40). If our Christian lives are not characterized by love, something is wrong. We’ve veered off the path. We need to repent and return to the heart of our God. Go back to the source. Read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Danny Gokey inspires us to “Love God Love People!”
Peggi Tustan is an ordinary woman living and extraordinary real Life in Christ. Visit her at www.eggitustan.com.