God does not require perfection
Over the years I’ve learned despite God revealing His grace, love and mercy to us through His Word people still mischaracterize Him. If I had to take a guess as to the origin of this notion God only accepts perfection I’d have to start with the Fall.
Not good enough
While growing up as a church kid I heard and read a lot about sin, Jesus and Satan. I learned pretty early that God doesn’t delight in sin nor does he take it lightly. This truth became solidified in my mind due to my parent’s constant reinforcement of their desire for good behavior and upstanding moral character. Looking back on those times I imagine for my parents - and most likely all parents - getting their children to behave each day is like re-entering the battlefield within a decades long war. And while I’m sure this seemingly never-ending endeavor is taxing on parents, I’d argue that over time the constant tension of trying to behave can wear on a child’s soul. I know it did for me. And I know from talking to my own children that the struggle to do good seems like a losing proposition.
We live in a world that demands everyone behaves. We’re taught to adopt this moral framework as children and reaching adulthood doesn’t absolve us from that responsibility. However, what I find intriguing, is that even though each and every one of us have been groomed from birth to do what is right, we still fail and fall victim to sin. You have to wonder, what’s the point? I mean, sure, most people haven’t devoted their lives to chaos and total destruction but we all know that deep down, we simply can’t overcome the desire to sin in every situation. Again, to try seems like a losing proposition.
The other day one of my daughters asked me why God didn’t wipe out Adam and Eve after they sinned. She seemed surprised that God continued on with His plan, staying the course and allowing humanity to exist despite their grave misstep. She seemed bewildered that God didn’t simply start over. She was also perplexed that God kicked off the whole creation event knowing that Adam and Eve would eventually sin. After all, He is God and is all-knowing. She didn’t realize it at the time, but at the heart of her question was a false belief God only deals with and loves the perfect. And why not? Isn’t God…perfect? How could a perfect being love and interact with such imperfection? My daughter isn’t alone in her questioning.
Today, many people share the same belief. That God only accepts perfection. That He only loves and blesses those who follow every single commandment, every single time. Sadly, I’ve even spoken to Believers who think they can actually obtain perfection while living on earth. That, by some supernatural intervention the Holy Spirit can override our every desire if we just believe hard enough. That if we exercise enough faith we can become perfect.
I’ve often wondered where this idea has come from. The idea that God demands perfection and to not meet this standard is to drive a wedge between us and Him. When you really think about this rationally the idea is a bit preposterous. You should have seen the look on my daughter's face when I asked her if my wife and I should’ve chose to not allow her to be born, simply because we knew she’d disobey us. Or, if we should have taken her life the first time she sinned against us. These questions I posed to her may sound harsh on the surface, but when she was forced to think a bit more critically it became clear to her just how ridiculous her ideas were.
Over the years I’ve learned despite God revealing His grace, love and mercy to us through His Word people still mischaracterize Him. If I had to take a guess as to the origin of this notion God only accepts perfection I’d have to start with the Fall. Here, in this event, we see God kicking Adam and Eve out due to their transgression. It can appear as if God wants nothing to do with humanity at this point. As if He’s fed up, tired of dealing with the dreadful, disobedient children. Now angry, He delivers punishment by ostracizing them forever. But that simply isn’t true. God didn’t forsake them.
In fact, when Eve conceives she says something that proves this point.
Genesis 4:1 (ESV)
Eve proclaims that God helped her. What? Here is God, kicking Adam and Eve out, helping them! Still working with His creation. And here is Eve, realizing God hasn’t completely forsaken them. And while we all remember the story of Cain and Abel, isn’t it odd they are later found contributing offerings to God? This act most certainly was taught by their father, Adam. Surely Adam told his sons about Eden. I’m willing to bet they even walked up to where the flaming swords and cherubim stood and discussed it.
The relationship between man and God changed dramatically after the Fall but it didn’t end. God stays in contact with His human creation and desires to be close to them. In fact we see God reinforcing this idea when speaking of exercising good moral character to Cain.
Genesis 4:7 (ESV)
The truth is, we will never be perfect or even good enough. And while I’m not advocating for willful disobedience, I amadvocating for striving to please the Lord who made us, and in order to do so we must wage war against sin. Despite your weaknesses, you must be like Adam and Eve in recognizing God is still your helper. You must also be like Abel, pursuing God’s heart with the best you have to offer. We must all fulfill these duties.
God never gave up on Adam and Eve and they both knew that. While they must have felt destroyed after their choices in Eden, God was still by their side. I want you to let that sink in. Imagine, being Adam and Eve, the cause of the Fall of God’s great work. Imagine bearing that iniquity and passing it to all of the human race. Think of what that must have been like. The shame of it all. To be deceived by Satan and banished out of Eden. Imagine the eyes of all of God’s holy hosts looking on with disappointment as they were marched out of Eden. God must have known just how crushed their spirits were. God is no fool. And as we’ll continue to see, He has never forsaken His creation despite our fallenness.
Let this be a lesson of grace for you. God is still our helper and our Father no matter how far we’ve fallen or how badly we will fail. He still desires closeness with us. We simply have to seek and desire Him with our whole heart.