The misconception that perfection is necessary in the Christian faith plagues modern-day Christianity.
Matthew 5:48 is routinely cited in perpetuating this misconception, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” However, citing this verse alone lacks the contextual analysis needed to truly understand the verse. When the entirety of Matthew 5 is read, it becomes overwhelmingly clear that Jesus is not stating that perfection is required of those who follow Him.
Nevertheless, Christians face a great deal of pressure to attain this perfection, even though the concept that a human being can attain perfection on their own is not Biblical.
The Bible is clear that if we claim we are perfect, we lie to ourselves and make a mockery of God in the process. 1 John 1:8-10 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.”
So, why do we do it? Why do we feel the need to put up this facade of perfection?
Rather than injecting my own opinions, I thought it would be better to seek out members of the Christian community at Samford University and across the nation to hear their side of the story on why we put up this facade of perfection.
Matt Kerlin, the assistant vice president for student development and university minster, said, “I think Christians put up a facade because, in part, there is cultural pressure in our context to conform to a kind of legalism whereby we are judged and accepted or rejected by our behavior. This is particularly true in the Bible-Belt South, and especially so on a Christian campus where grace is supplanted by perfectionistic expectations.”
Zac Johnson, a Christian speaker and social media influencer had a similar take. “We put up these facades because we are scared to let people see the real us. I don’t think we fully trust that God doesn’t just accept our weaknesses, but He wants to use them,” he said.
Hattie Breece, a student at Samford University, gave an interesting perspective as to why this type of mindset is so predominate on a Christian college campus such as Samford University. “Universities like Samford tend to attract students who are pursuing success, and in doing so these students want to seem like everything is great and that everyone has their lives all together. But, when nearly everyone has this mentality it creates an environment of ‘lukewarmness,’ where everyone is content in the state that they are currently in. They want to appear as if they have it all together, and don’t want to acknowledge the inherent brokenness that comes with being a Christian,” said Breece.
How do we actively work toward a culture in which we let others, as well as ourselves, know that it is okay to be open with our brokenness and our need for a Savior?
Johnson offered some simplistic, yet incredible insight into how we must go about solving this problem.
“I think the change starts with you, and then goes top down,” Johnson said. “It starts with how you lead, how you talk, how you steward your influence, and then as a result that goes ‘downhill.’ If you want to see people be more genuine, you need to be genuine. If you want to see people open up about their brokenness, then you need to as well. Changing the culture of anything, big or small, starts with us.”
Baylor Cook, Columnist
[Photo courtesy of Chase Cochran]