characterized by idealism; unrealistically aiming for perfection.
Over the years, Christianity has received a lot of scrutiny for its idealism. Seemingly unattainable themes like purity, holiness, and perfection are not unique to Christianity, but are some of its defining characteristics.
I can easily identify with any thinking person’s struggle with Christian idealism. After all, the church has championed perfection and purity in ways that seem out of reach to so many hurting souls. The idea of having a “perfect” life with healthy relationships and unshakable faith seems attractive, but one glance at humanity makes this idea seem ridiculous.
We are imperfect humans living in a broken world. This makes us crave a more accurate representation of life, and we scoff at thoughts of purity. It’s unrealistic. Right?
Our relationships are broken.
Our purity is gone.
Our marriages are hurting.
Our hearts are scarred from battles with sin.
Our addictions have us hooked.
This is the hurt that sits in the pews, whether inside or besides us.
Considering this reality, should we abandon purity for the purpose of inclusiveness?
Some of you just panicked. Calm down. I am not advocating for the abandonment of holiness. I am advocating that we reconsider what kind of purity we are teaching.
Naturally, I am a person of extremes. I grew up thinking that accepting my human brokenness was a slap in the face to the Bible’s clear call to holiness. I couldn’t refute idealism and still hold on to holiness. Brokenness and holiness seem mutually exclusive.
Friends, this is where it is so easy to go wrong.
This is literally what the Gospel is for. Jesus died to reconcile the broken ones to the Holy One. He didn’t come to save the people who prided themselves in perfection. He came to save the lost.
The danger lies in the extremes. Accepting brokenness with no regard to the severity of sin is irresponsible. However, expecting perfection without taking depravity into account is not the answer.
The Apostle Paul wrestled with his brokenness. The Bible recounts Paul’s hate-filled narrative of persecuting believers before his conversion. These experiences left Paul with a unique perspective on sin and God’s reconciliation. Paul reminisced about his past saying,
“though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”
(1 Timothy 1:13-16 ESV)
Yes, we as believers are called to purity. We have been cleansed with the blood of Jesus and His purity was accounted to us. It’s only through Him that we may be holy.
We must tell of His holiness.
His “perfect patience”, as Paul said, takes our brokenness and restores us to a relationship with the Holy one.
Jesus was not afraid of brokenness because He is the Healer.
We need not be afraid of brokenness because we know the One who heals.
Should we abandon the goal of holiness? Absolutely not.
Should we condone sin in the name of brokenness? No, we should not.
Should we shame our broken brothers and sisters as if we are better than them? That isn’t our job. The Bible is clear that no one is righteous. (Romans 3:10)
What we must do is proclaim the holiness of our God who has the power to heal the hurting. He has the ability to change our desires to match His own. He wants us to bring our brokenness to Him. He died to forgive us and save us from the brokenness we were born into.
Left to ourselves, perfection is out of reach. We would drown in sin and shame because our desires are evil. But, because of Jesus, perfection will one day be our reality.
Our brokenness is overwhelmingly discouraging when we pursue holiness in our own power. With God, the overwhelming becomes not only possible, but beautiful.
This is not in support of complacency towards sin. This is a call to freedom in understanding that we are only ever made holy by the righteousness of God.
Yes, we are broken. Yes, it will affect our lives on earth. And yes, perfection is idealistic. But Jesus loved us so much that He made a way for us to obtain it.
We strive for purity out of love for our savior and a desire to glorify Him by imitating Him. But it isn’t because of our own purity. It’s all because of Him.