What’s Wrong With: “Christians Aren’t Perfect, Just Forgiven”?
Any veteran Christian-watcher such as myself has heard this slogan a thousand times: “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” A lot of Christians themselves deny having said and/or heard it, but those who’re honest will cop to it, and possibly even concede they may have said it, themselves.
If you doubt how common this slogan is in Christendom, Dear Reader, I invite you to do a Google image search on that phrase; you’ll find lots of hits with lots of graphics showing it … featured on Web pages, t-shirts, bumper stickers, banners, and lots of other merchandise. Christians wouldn’t be using or selling this crap to each other if they didn’t find that slogan attractive or worthy.
The problems with “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” are legion. Several weeks ago I posted an example of one errant Christian having exhibited the very type of reasoning promoted by that saying. That they’re already forgiven for anything and everything they do, grants Christians license to … well, anything they damn well want to do, anytime they want to do it, to anyone they damn well want. It’s all OK, you see, because Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.
See how quick and easy that was? Pretty fucking convenient, wouldn’t you say? And given that they slap this slogan on their cars and their clothing shows how proud of it they are.
This idea has been a problem for Christianity almost since its inception. As a result, orthodox Christianity has fought a kind of rear-guard action against it for a very long time. Heresies such as those of the Carpocratians and the Nicolaitans were condemned for their reported wanton licentiousness. Its antiquity is evident in the New Testament, for instance:
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26-27)
This quotation also happens to reveal the logical flaw in this defense against libertinism: Notice the skip in the logic here. The author is saying, in essence, that continuing to sin causes one to lose the forgiveness one has earned … but he or she doesn’t explain how or why this magically happens. The mechanism by which this supposedly occurs is left unstated.
In any event, and on the other hand, there happens also to be scriptural support for the idea that Christians have express license to do anything they wish:
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36)
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:2)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
Granted, a lot of Christians disagree that these verses support libertinism, but they — and others — have been advanced in support of that idea nonetheless.
The bottom line of all this is that Christians need to take responsibility for themselves and the things they do. Blaming their own wrongdoing on their “sinful natures” won’t do that. Announcing they’re already forgiven by God for what they did, therefore people are required to ignore it, also won’t do that. Telling other people that they’re sinners, too, so they can’t criticize, won’t do it either. The only thing that will help is for them to admit their wrongdoing, apologize genuinely for it, make amends whenever and however they can, sincerely try not to do wrong in the future, and just stop with the childish whining and sniveling already.
One last thing: Christians can’t condemn non-believers as people who reject their God just so they can run around doing anything they want, while at the same time announcing to the universe that they’re “not perfect, just forgiven,” so their own moral failings are no big deal and must be ignored. Those two ideas are at odds with one another. If you trot them out, that’d make you a hypocrite. And you should know, your own Jesus explicitly and unambiguously forbid you ever to be hypocritical … at any time or for any reason.
Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic.