In ancient times, the whole purpose of Temple sacrifices, and religion in general, was to make oneself perfect. Sacrifices were meant to cleanse sin from our lives and spirits, atoning for the wrongs and evil we had already done. Devotion to one’s god(s) was supposed to make you would be acceptable in the sight of your God, and therefore worthy of rewards of one sort or another (either in this life or perhaps in the afterlife).
The birth of Jesus flies in the face of all this: a Babe born of an unwed mother – a Bastard, possibly even the product of rape (according to some ancient sources). Born in a stable – a place of poverty and filth – animals, dirt, feces, bad smells. The offspring of Galileans, a people who were not respected or admired even by their fellow Jews. A child raised in obscurity in a remote corner of a poor land under the heel of Roman Domination. How low, how less than perfect, can you go?
But that’s precisely the point: our faith does not require us to become perfect to attain merit or favor from our Creator. Through the teachings of the New Testament, we see that perfection is not a prerequisite for entering into a relationship with God. Instead, perfection is the outcome of our relationship with God. We are perfected by our faith. We do not need to do anything to merit it, other than to believe.
This means you are accepted, and acceptable, just as you are. You are loved, and lovable, just as you are. You are valued, and valuable, just as you are.
As a Church, we must come to not only accept this, but embrace it with enthusiasm. Do we live our faith in ways where this truth, that perfection is not a prerequisite for our relationship with God, is obvious to all? Do we show, by the way we relate with anyone ad everyone, that we are loving them just as God loves them?
This means every aspect of our life as members of a community of faith must be thoughtfully considered. Are we welcoming and indeed affirming as people walk through the door? What about our services, celebrations and outreaches? What about our bathrooms and our after service coffee hour? And, most importantly, does the community within which we exist see us as exclusivist or welcoming? Do we place walls between ourselves and the other, or work hard to tear down any walls that could inhibit our embrace of them as a child of God just as loved by our Creator as we know ourselves to be?
In fact, what if the world were perfect? It would be a very boring place. With everything perfect there would be no love. There would be no relationship, and there would be no grace. There would be no need for a God.
So, this is not a perfect world. We are not a perfect people, our churches and our faiths are not perfect either, but our faith is a perfect faith – a faith of less than perfect people who have been perfected by the Love of their Creator.
None whom we encounter in life are any less perfect than we. Love them where they are, as God does us. Because we need our imperfection, just as God needs our imperfection so that we can be loved for who we are, just as we are.
Copyright (c) 2015, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved. I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as proper credit for my authorship is given. (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site – or just email me and ask!)