Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Myth of the Perfect Person

I have never met anyone who claimed to be free of sin. I've always wanted to meet one though. I've heard a couple of them on call-in radio shows and their literally "holier than thou" attitude floored me. However I've never been fortunate enough to bump into one of these folks. But I'm ready. My first question is already prepared.

"Do you consider pride a sin?"

I figure that watching Mr. Perfect answer that question which will amuse me to no end. After all if someone has convinced himself that he no longer sins, I'm certainly not going to be able to convince them otherwise. So I might as well have some fun watching somebody claim no pride in having no sin. How would you not be proud of something like that?! It's like asking someone to shout the reasons why they continue to keep a vow of silence.

I remember a few years ago when a man sold semi-nude photos of Dr. Laura Schlessenger to a magazine. There is a segment of people who really resented Dr. Laura telling callers to her radio show that they were doing something wrong. After all, who was she to tell someone else that they were doing something wrong? When it was revealed (pun intended) that Dr. Laura had posed for these pictures twenty years previous, the anti-Dr. zealots really went off the deep end. After all, here was proof that Dr. Laura did something wrong, so who was she to judge? The question that I kept posing was simple: If one must be perfect to recognize sin, then we can't be expected to know the difference between right and wrong, so how can God hold us responsible for our sins? It presents a logical dilemma for those who believe in moral absolutes. Those who deny moral absolutes have their own set of problems.

The fact is that we are expected to know right from wrong, and we are not perfect. So there is no hypocrisy is pointing out sin even though we ourselves are sinners. The idea that our sin disqualifies us from understanding that rape is wrong is preposterous. Obviously we all sin, but we don't go telling everyone all about every sin. Some sins we barely admit to ourselves.

I ran into this quote in from an amateur book review from a woman going by Sally Ann A. at

"The only problem I have with this book (and preachers in general) is that they are imperfect too.. how are we supposed to take advice from imperfect people? "

When I first read this sentence I sat before my monitor with a confused look on my face. Was Sally Ann saying that she would only take advice from perfect people? If so, I have a question for them!

Then I looked at it a little deeper. Sally Ann went on to say that the preacher/author admitted that he was a sinner, like this made him ineligible for the ministry. As I look back at my time growing up in the church, I don't think I ever looked at the preacher as a "sinner" -- just as someone who was supposedly speaking God's word.

As a pastor I often ask myself just how much information the congregation wants which confirms that their pastor is imperfect. I am not perfect. I'm not going to claim otherwise. And of course, contrary to Sally Ann's quote, I'm not into dishing out "advice" about things. I tell people what the Bible says and what it means to our lives. Ann Landers, I'm not. But if putting up an illusion that I am perfect is what it takes to get through to someone like Sally Ann, I'd rather not become a hypocrite. We all can recognize sin. The Bible says that God wrote His Commandments upon our hearts. A person's imperfections only put him in the same league as everyone else - a sinner in need of a Savior. Plus, we also have the opportunity to learn from our sins provided we don't deny them.

How authentic should a pastor be with the congregation? How much information about my failures and rebellions against God would you want to hear from the person who brings you spiritual leadership. I'm not sure there is a perfect answer for that question. But I know that it would be difficult for a human being who had never sinned to understand why anyone else would sin. Scripture says that angels would like to understand what salvation is really all about, since they've never experienced it. Even Christ came to earth and the Bible says he understands temptation because He Himself was tempted. I've met pastors with prison records and they are some of the most spiritual people I know. You see, sinners understand sin. Sinners understand forgiveness. And sinners understand grace.

I am thankful for the sinful teachers I learn from every day. And I am thankful for the only sinless One as well.

No comments: