|Naive people often gripe that
Christians are still imperfect after they have become
Christians. Of course they are. They are bettered or improved through
but never perfected. The test of religion is not what a person is but
what he might have
been without a positive faith.
The Apostle was saved by grace, redeemed, but he was never perfected. From an enthusiastic zealot against the early church he changed into an enthusiastic missionary for the early church. His enthusiasm and missionary zeal was redirected by redemption but, as he said, he was not perfected. He was still a serious sinner always in need of God’s grace. The scripture says of Christians, “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8)
The Christian individual knows that human nature is redirected and fulfilled by grace through the redemptive process but human nature continues on down the road with its normal human tendencies. So we should not expect to be made perfect when we become Christians.
Since we are sinners in a world fellowship of sin, please consider this and do not rush to judgment and rage over another’s sins. The sin of any man is in every man. The trademark of a false thinker is his or her rage at the sins of another (the beam in the eye of another) without being aware of the mote in his or her own eye. (Matthew 7:5) It is a very satisfying thing to chase after the sins of others while paying no attention to our own, but it is false use of faith.
An urge and a rush to achieve idealistic perfection in yourself, others or the civic life of the state is a heresy both in method and in goal. Seeking after overly idealistic perfection is a form of lunatic idealism that has been much with us in the past several hundred years. It was lunatic idealistic raving about liberty that led to the Terror of the French Guillotine. So do not think lunatic idealism is always just on the non-socially progressive side. The socially progressive show it too.
Seeking after perfection may and often does end in frustrated violence over the attitudes of those not wanting forced change. When the common people do not change as the overly idealistic may wish them to, the idealistic often have a tendency to become violent or resort to force. Modern idealism for example has often tried to bring in the better by doing the worst. You may recall Stalin’s purge of 16,000,000 peasant “kulaks” because they did not change as he wanted.
I have a deep admiration for those stubbornly refusing to change. They thereby force the false idealists to reveal their true selves by sending armies, doing radical actions, forcing higher taxes or making more ridiculous laws.
The stubborn illuminate the character of those wanting to change them. For when you make a person show what he or she is by what he resorts to when you are stubborn, you have won a battle. I urge you at times to show up what some people are, what some governments are, and what institutions, sometimes even churches are.
I advise you in Christ, be stubborn in the Lord, that you show up your enemies for what they are. Do not follow a multitude to do evil. (Exodus 23:2) But by standing fast, expose the evil in those claiming falsely to be good. These false claimers often secularists, do not necessarily know what is good for God or how the Kingdom of Heaven comes.
Remember the overly idealistic try to force a cookie cutter idealism on the fluidity of life. But God’s grace deals with situations. Things change and grow in grace according to where they are situated, and what they are capable of at the time, in the circumstances they are in, never according to what they “ought” to be.
Idealists try to force stereotypes of good upon us according to books, but grace works with life and carries life as far as it can go at the time, considering the place and under the circumstances.
A bad sermon is an exercise in “ought.” Everyone politely listens to what ought to be, then goes home to do exactly what they have been doing anyway, since the impossible idealistic demand is an exercise in agony and an unachievable state. “Ought” is a daydream as in Communist thinking when it says that in the final coming of communism the state will wither away. For the state to wither away, human nature would have to wither away. What nonsense! Human nature is always with us.
But a good sermon deals with what is possible, what is true, and how the Kingdom of Heaven comes to earth, bit by bit, little by little, grace by grace through the individual as an instrument of God. After all idealism tries to change human nature radically and to make it impossibly good. (I think idealists don’t really like people, as idealists are trying to make people into what they are not and cannot be: perfect. Perfection is really anti-life.) But Christian redemption touches human nature with transcendent grace and redirects it. But it neither eliminates its beauty or human nature’s charm, or the humor attached to it.
I advise spiritual evolution through grace. We see this spiritual development going on in the Bible, The Old Testament begins in a primitive setting where violence was often needed because the society was so primitive. But from the Old Testament to the New Testament we see a maturing spiritual evolution of grace to the non-violence of Christ in the New Testament.
I suggest you consider spiritual evolution by grace according to the situation, never idealistic revolution to implement an impossible and human nature hating ideal state: to force a frozen righteousness on life’s fluid activity of life. (Now spiritual evolution is by grace and free will. It has nothing to do with scientific evolution, that is not my interest or concern here. So do not be misled by the word “evolution.”)
Unfortunately intellectual theoretical idealists with Platonic super plans try to foist and force their ideals on the peoples of the world. Idealists do not understand spiritual evolutionary grace that is traditionally in the Hebrew and Christian tradition. Idealists for the most part demand change according to a book or a plan. (That explains why the universities are hell holes of it.) But Christians demand a maturing change by grace according to the grace of God working in unique life situations.
Real Christianity goes from grace to grace, little by little, bit by bit, one good action then another. Lives and societies are not perfected but they are bettered and improved. However, idealism, frustrated by human nature, often turns to violence to implement itself. It forces people into a stereotype of good that may be truly anti-human and spiritually revolting. We should never accept a passive-aggressive Christianity where people follow doing nothing with doing too much. This has often been the case in the past. Idealists in these past centuries seem to think they can achieve the best through doing the worst: violence and stereotyped thought forced on mankind.
Let us then look to spiritual evolution instead of hysterical idealistic revolutions that have so far marked the last few centuries of history.
Let us emphasize mankind’s spiritual development towards an enduring spiritual maturity. To be what man was created by Nature’s God to be, mankind must have some spiritual awareness and maturity. That is obviously part of Nature’s plan for man. That means not the rigid implications of idealism, but an awareness of the challenging fluidity of life. It means we know we are taking part in and forming spiritual evolutionary grace to bless mankind.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.