Perfectly Imperfect

The church is so full of flawed human beings that one is left to ask the question, what is the real purpose of the church if the adherents of Christianity do not live up to the tenets of their professed faith?

It seems to me that many of those left disappointed by the shortcomings of Christians lack a proper understanding of the concept of grace and its relationship to the holy standard of God's law.

Grace is not a license to sin, but it is "critical coverage" for the inevitable shortcomings of even redeemed human beings. (See Romans 3:23.) Even when I have had my daily devotion and prayer I still come short of the glory of God. Therefore, even at my best, I am still as desperately in need of God's grace as when I was not in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The most admired of Christian personalities will still confess that they sin either in thought, word, or deed. The apostle Paul confessed toward the end of a productive evangelistic ministry that he was "chief of sinners." My friends, until we are "changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," we will remain in need of God's grace.

The history of the church, of which Christ is both the Head and Founder, bears record of imperfection even in its charter members. Aside from the obvious, that is, Judas, there is the apostle Peter confronted by the apostle Paul for his hypocrisy and racism. Then there is recorded for us the impatience of Paul with John Mark. We also see the inequities in the distribution of goods between the Greek and Jewish widows. Imperfection has been seen in members of the church since its very inception!

In the opening chapters of the book of Revelation, John the Revelator sees Jesus walking among the candlesticks. The candlesticks represent the churches. The fact that He is walking "among" the candlesticks is an indication that He is with His church, albeit populated by imperfect people. Those who expect perfection of professed Christians should be surprised to learn that Jesus is still "among" the churches that are described in chapters 2 and 3 with such glaring flaws and imperfections.

Satan is rightly called the "accuser of the brethren." I believe that it is his studied strategy to tempt Christians to sin, then expose their sin to other sinners who stand in need of the grace that is to be found IN the church. He is one wiley character!

I know that people argue you can find Jesus outside the church, that you can maintain a relationship with Christ without church membership or affiliation, but let us not forget that the omniscient God founded the church and knew from the beginning that it would be made up of imperfect.

I can remain in the church with other hypocrites because I need the same grace they need. And because Christ calls His children into His church.

The New Testament does not teach that we should abandon the church and form a hybrid faith apart from other Christians whose imperfections are different than ours. No, New Testament Christianity calls us into community. It calls us into relationships of accountability. It calls us into a community where loving confrontation is allowed for the purpose challenging our brothers and sisters in Christ to "walk worthy of their calling."

Hebrews 10:25 tells us "not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together." And I believe it is because we quickly lose perspective in isolation. (Remember Elijah thinking he was the only one doing God's will and God had to remind him that He had hundreds who had not bowed to the false worship of Baal?) In isolation we tend to minimize the imperfections in ourselves and magnify the imperfections we see in others.

So let me make a painfully obvious confession: we in the church are not perfect. But, and I really hate to be the bearer of bad news, neither are you. So, come join us. No, don't join us to sin. Rather, join us so that we can spur each other on to love and good works. Proverbs 27 says that as iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. I can help you be better. And you can help me be better. And since Christ is coming back "for a church," we can all be waiting with eager expectation for our change when our corruptible and mortal state shall be traded for that of incorruption and immortality. Until then, the wheat and the tares are to grow TOGETHER.


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