“Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Pet 1:16 KJV)
What is the standard of Christian perfection?
The Standard is Perfection
The only moral standard which makes sense is absolute perfection. Once you say that sin – breaking the moral code – is acceptable sometimes, you have to start explaining which sins are acceptable in which situations, and justifying why this sin is acceptable, while that very similar sin is not. The question of what is acceptable becomes a subject for discussion and modification. You are left not with a moral standard but a more-or-less useful set of guidelines for living in a generally moral way.
This standard of perfection, of course, needs to cover every aspect of our lives. It is not enough to reel off a list of sins you don’t commit – the things you don’t do don’t make up for the things you do do. If the nice policeman catches you speeding down the road and pulls you over, he will not be too impressed if you say it doesn’t matter because you keep to the speed limit most of the time.
The point is this: the law is not something where you aim for a ‘pass mark’. It is no defense to tell the court you did not commit fraud 80% of the time, or 90%, or 99%. With the law, you either keep it perfectly, or you are guilty. It’s as simple as that.
So you may not commit murder – that’s good. But if you hurt people by the way you speak, you fall short of being morally perfect. Harming people – or failing to help them – because of greed, selfishness, insensitivity or ambition – that is the kind of thing the Bible means when it says we all fail to meet God’s standard of perfection.
And this standard – God’s moral standard – is not the target we are supposed to aim for. It is the minimum acceptable, the starting point. God wants us to be good, creative, loving and happy people. Not sinning is not the objective, it is simply what is required if we are not to destroy the good He wishes to build. Not sinning means not going backwards: what He wants for us is that we go forward with Him. We could meet the standard of never sinning, and still only be ‘unprofitable servants’ – not actually contributing anything positive.
“Harming people – or failing to help them – because of greed, selfishness, insensitivity or ambition – ”
The Law as given to Israel set a standard of conviction, to let us know that we all are sinners in the eyes of God. Jesus set the standard that much higher. It is now not just what we have done but, those things which we have left undone. We are to set our hearts and minds on perfection – Holiness.
(1 Th 4:3 KJV) ” For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, ….. To live, no longer for ourselves but for Him…” Then we will bear abundant and lasting fruit.”
(2 Cor 5:15 KJV) “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
That we might live, no longer for ourselves but for others. God sent the Holy Spirit as his first gift to those who believe, so that we may complete his work on earth, and to bring us the fullness of His grace! The Holy Spirit, our creative helper, will give us many opportunities daily to express our love for needy humanity in our homes, our neighbourhoods, our places of work, our churches and the whole of God’s world.
I am a rich man I am a very rich man. Although my income places me in the bottom 20% in North American living standards, I am in the top 11% incomes in the world.
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
– Mark 12:41-44
Was Jesus setting a standard by drawing attention to the widow’s offering?