This article appeared in the August 7 edition of the Lewiston Morning Tribune
© 07.28.10 By D. Eric Williams
You've seen the bumper sticker - “Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven” and it is true. Unfortunately there is good and bad in that. According to Romans 8:1, There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. That's good. But as Jesus is recorded as saying in Matthew 5:48, Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect and if Christians aren't perfect, that's bad.
Yet, Jesus didn't mean we can attain sinless perfection in this life. The Greek word employed in Matthew 5:48 (and the family of like words in the New Testament) is never used to identify moral flawlessness. Certainly we are commanded to strive for ethical precision, but that isn't what Jesus had in mind. Instead, He means we should be consistent and regular in submission, not submitting one part of our life while refusing to surrender another. All aspects of our life and sphere of influence must be progressively brought under the lordship of Christ. In short, no facet of creation may be excluded from the lordship of the Messiah.
Jesus had this in mind when he questioned the rich young ruler about his lifestyle. When the young man said he had brought his life under the lordship of heaven, Jesus uncovered an area remaining outside the dominion of the kingdom, saying, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Matthew 19:21-22). Jesus meant the young man was missing a gear in his clock. He wasn't perfect because he didn't have all aspects of his life submitted to God. He was right in claiming that much of his life was in working order (not morally flawless), but Jesus made it clear God wanted all of him.
This is the goal of biblical doctrine. God's word is given so each of us might submit every component of our experience to the wisdom of God. Paul says, Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:28). Every (Christian) man perfect, not the select few. Every Christian with every part of life in working kingdom order. Again, not morally flawless, but obedience - and quick repentance when necessary.
Unfortunately, many Christians claim the Faith has nothing to do with certain aspects of life. They claim the Bible has nothing to say about politics, economics, sociology, history, science, culture, education and so on. Christian reader, if you have fallen into the trap of limiting your obedience to personal piety, please understand, you will never be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.