I was curious when I saw Baylor Cook’s article last week, “Searching for the truth beyond the facade” in the Samford Crimson. I assumed that the article would be related to the concept of Truth. Much to my surprise, the article was about the Christian perception of perfection.
Cook says his faith community seems to be plagued by “the misconception that perfection is necessary in the Christian faith.” I was raised in many churches, some more severe than others, but no one ever told me I had to be perfect. This is not to say that Cook’s experience is invalid, of course. I simply find it surprising. Cook is very quick to argue that Christians don’t need to be perfect by supporting his argument with Bible verses. If you operate within a Christian worldview, odds are you agree with him.
Cook asks, “Why do Christians believe they must be perfect?” He declines to offer his own opinion, instead offering three others. He asks Matt Kerlin, the assistant vice president for student development and university minister. Kerlin believes that people believe they must be perfect because our Southern culture demands it. He proposes that we are accepted for doing what is acceptable and rejected for doing what is abhorrent, but that is true for everything in society, from common decency to government.
Cook then offers an explanation from Zac Johnson, a Christian speaker and “social media influencer.” Johnson offers two explanations: that Christians are scared to be vulnerable with each other and that Christians are scared God won’t accept their weaknesses. I think these explanations get closer to the heart of things.
But I disagree with the idea that Christians are eager to appear perfect to each other. If anything, they use their sin to testify to God’s power in their lives. Johnson’s other explanation is that Christians are scared God won’t accept their weaknesses. This concept makes more sense, except that, as Cook explained at the beginning of his article, it is easily disproved by the Bible that it shouldn’t be a problem for Christians if they stop and think about it. For this reason, I don’t understand Johnson’s explanation for why Christians feel they must be perfect.
Cook’s final interview was with Hattie Breece, a Samford student. Her explanation was that our Samford bubble promotes perfection in our faith for several reasons: We are pursuing professional success, people are content with presenting a facade of perfection and that they “don’t want to acknowledge the inherent brokenness that comes with being a Christian.”
Breece’s idea that people are content with presenting a facade of perfection makes sense, but presents no explanation for why Christians might believe they must be perfect. Her last idea is perhaps the best explanation in the article. Breece also says that people don’t want to acknowledge the inherent brokenness that comes with being a Christian. But I disagree. If you ask someone on the street, they would probably say that it is much easier to accept imperfection than to strive for a perfection God has already told you is unattainable.
Cook argues that the need for perfetion is inconsistent with foundational
Christian values, and I agree with him. In fact, every Abrahamic religion agrees that humanity is imperfect and that grace is required to enter Heaven.
Yet somehow, Cook’s faith community still has this idea that they must be perfect to enter Heaven. Why? I’m convinced that there is another motivation that Mr. Cook did not address.
Perfection is needed for salvation, but people are not perfect. The Christian solution to this problem is the sacrifice of Jesus, so why would a Christian still believe they need to be perfect? And how should we behave if our sins are already paid for? I doubt your average Christian would say we can murder unrepentantly because Christ already paid for that sin.
An easy solution to the question, “How should we behave if our sins are paid for?” is to maintain the belief that we must be perfect. If we believe we must be perfect, we will feel shame and seek forgiveness when we sin.
Bryant Moore, Columnist
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