One of my regular prayers to God goes something like this: “I just want one year to be the perfect year, a year when everything would go according to the plan. All of my personal and work related budgets would be met; a 10% surplus would be a nice bonus! In addition I would like all the DOOR evaluations to come back with glowing comments and no suggestions for improvement. My theological reflections and opinions would be received with open arms. These reflections would be turned into a book which in turn would become a best seller. My staff would start from the assumption that I could do no wrong. And finally my computer would be free of bugs and viruses.” God has not granted this prayer request. I am not perfect, the people around me are not perfect, and it is only on rare occasions that things work according to the plan. Learning to live with imperfection actually becomes a life skill. There are even people who tell me that dealing with let-downs and the unexpected is what develops character. Apparently everything being perfect doesn’t say much about who we are as people; trials, tribulations, and imperfections are the things that make great people.
Here is my question: If this is true for individuals is it also true for the church? Why is it so important to develop statements of faith that seem to require everyone to think and believe the same way? Why can’t the church be a little more imperfect? I am part of Mennonite Church USA. We are starting to tear apart at the seams around the issue of ordaining gay and lesbian persons. Some people, and I am speaking specifically to those in leadership, believe that unless we can agree on what the Bible says about this subject we cannot worship together. From my perspective, and I need to own that it is my perspective, this seems like the pinnacle of spiritual immaturity. It is the imperfection and differences of opinion that create character and integrity.
There is a story in John 8:1-11 about a woman caught in adultery. The leaders saw this woman’s imperfection but had no ability to see their own imperfection. Both the leaders and Jesus wanted the same thing- purity. Their approaches were so different. The leaders literally wanted to kill any impurity they found. Jesus wanted everyone to be more reflective about their own status. Reflection creates a space for difference and difference allows for character development.
If we are serious about our status as the bride of Christ, then let’s become much more comfortable with difference and imperfection; maybe even embrace those who hold positions about theology we radically disagree with.