Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Problem With Perfection

Every day that I write in this blog I take a risk. The risk is a simple thing and it is not much different than what we each risk when we share our opinion or thoughts on things in life; we run the risk of being wrong. It is a shame that we have lost that notion in the Church, that there is room to be wrong. The first requirement of any teacher is a willingness to be taught. If we had more of this we would have a lot less dogma in the Church and a great deal more growth in our understanding of our Father's heart. James warned:

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. (James 3:1-2)

We live in a culture where "speaking your mind" is highly valued and we use this as a way of excusing our rude and crass language. We are no longer concerned about protecting the person we are talking to or of even using our language to help them. Instead we have a "two-barrel" mentality as we blast them with our judgment. If it comes to our mind we say it. But this cannot be the way of a teacher in the Body of Christ. We must consider the weight of our words, and the consequences of what they will provoke in people. It is for this reason that James cautions us that not everyone is a teacher. Teachers will be judged more severely because of the responsibility we have been given. But some people translate this to mean that teachers are expected to be perfect.

It is strange that people hold one standard for themselves and a second for other people. They will come up with excuses for their own actions and words but won't give an inch of ground to others who have made a mistake. Sometimes teachers are wrong but because we no longer have an openness in the Church these teachers are afraid to admit they made a mistake. They are afraid that if they do admit it and look for greater instruction people will lose trust in them and some will even call for their "blood". We must always leave room for mistakes and correction in the Body of Christ. There must be an attitude of open correction, public apology and the understanding we are all still learning.

The real danger in the Body of Christ is when a teacher refuses to admit that he was mistaken and continues to teach false doctrine. He stands in a greater condemnation because of everyone he is dragging down with his wrong teaching. How much better and richer an experience to admit your error, to learn and to continue in your progress. This should be the way of the Church. Consider the openness of Nicodemus who, even though he was afraid, knew enough to know that he didn't know. Consider the lessons he received as he approached Jesus with his questions.

We also need to be less demanding of perfection from our teachers. We are told that we need to be always checking for ourselves so we will know if something is not right but it doesn't mean we condemn them when we note an error. We need to give some breathing space to our teachers, our leaders, who are as imperfect as we are. When they admit their mistake we should applaud them and commend them for their openness to being taught. Let's not become so full of ourselves that we lose the heart and mind of Jesus in these matters.

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