WHAT ABOUT PERFECTION?
by David Sisler
It obviously was not the first time I had heard the two most popular criticisms of the church. It was just a little bit unusual that I heard both of them in the same day, and from two different people.
Criticism Number One: “Do you know what’s wrong with the Christian Church? Those people think they are perfect!”
Honestly, there are some Christians who do think they are perfect. They have no faults at all. The attacks of the devil never come near to them. Listening to their testimony, you wonder how God ever got along without them. If they have any secret imperfections they are usually so harsh in disclaiming it you wonder how they could claim to be a reflection of the Lord.
Criticism Number Two: “Do you know what’s wrong with the Christian Church? It is full of a bunch of hypocrites.”
Honestly, there are some Christians who do not practice what they preach. There is great humor in comparing the two criticisms. This critic is saying just the opposite of the first one: “These people are supposed to be perfect and I have discovered they are very imperfect.” And do you know, that criticism is valid? If the standard is 100 percent obedience to God, then only Jesus is not a hypocrite.
Do you want to know something funny? People who defend either position usually appeal to the same passage of Scripture.
The Apostle Paul was writing to the church in Philippi. Gold and silver mines in the area had made Philippi a great commercial center of the ancient world. The city, itself, had been founded by Philip, father of Alexander the Great, and it is his name that it bears. There was no more strategic site in all Europe. Because of the local geography, the road from Europe to Asia had to go through Philippi. Philippi maintained its strategic importance as a Roman Colony. To a church in a city with such an obvious background in perfection Paul said:
“I am not acting as though I had already attained, either were already perfect...but...forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.”
Paul wasn’t using the word perfect in the sense of being 100 percent, absolutely lacking in nothing. He was using it in the sense of a full-grown man as opposed to an undeveloped youth, one who was qualified to teach a subject as opposed to a student just learning the material.
Paul was saying, “I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal. But I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. There is one thing I always do: I forget the things that are past. I try as hard as I can to reach the goal that is before me.”
Let’s look at the two criticisms of the Church again, in the light of Paul’s definition of perfection.
“Those people think they are perfect!”
Paul would counter, “They know they are not 100 percent, yet, but with the maturity that comes from trusting God, they have set a goal. And laying aside everything that would hinder them from reaching that goal, they single mindedly press on.”
“The Church is full of a bunch of hypocrites.”
Paul would counter, “Christians are not perfect, but they forget what is in their past – both their accomplishments and their failures – and in the light of the only thing that matters, the forgiveness of their sins, they battle toward their goal.”
Using those two criticisms of the Church – definitions of the Church, if you will – how would you identify yourself? Have you, with maturity, marked out Jesus as your goal? Have you, with a focused mind, put everything behind you, except for Jesus? By those definitions, claim your position as part of God’s Church.
Copyright 2003 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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