Why I Dislike the Phrase “Only Jesus Was Perfect”

Today’s post had it’s humble beginnings rooted in another post about one Sadie Robertson and her appearance on the show “Dancing with the Stars”. A number of comments were posted underneath the article most of which expressed positivity and goodwill towards the Duck Dynasty star. Almost forgotten among all the positive comments was a comment denouncing her role model status because of her dancing endeavors. People disagreed and like any good internet argument there was name calling, incoherent rambling (as a result of mindless keystrokes), and, what I like to call, the one-liner bow-out. The “one-liner bow-out” (also known as “hit-and-run commenting) is a process that involves 1) leaving a comment extolling your rightness (or the opponent’s wrongness) and 2) leaving the conversation never reply again. It’s the internet equivalent of “dropping the mic“. What was this incredible knock-out punch of a line? Here it is in all it’s argument-stopping glory:

Only Jesus was perfect”

BOOM!

*drops mic and walks away*

I must confess that I do not know this lady, her heart, or what she meant by this line. I do know however why others have said this in the past. Their reasons for saying this phrase has caused me to hate the very true statement “only Jesus was perfect“.

It’s used as an excuse to absolve someone’s wrongdoing

If you thought “you can’t judge me” was bad just wait until someone tosses you the old “only Jesus was perfect” line. The first one is bad theology based on a verse removed from it’s context (Mt. 7:1-5). This second one is rooted in truth, after all Jesus did live a perfect and sinless life (Heb. 4:15). A perfect life is something we can’t live because every one of us sin’s and falls short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). A lot of times when people say “only Jesus was perfect” what they really mean is “I’m not perfect and neither are you so don’t call me out for my wrongdoing. The perfection of Jesus shouldn’t be seen as a get out of sin free card. It should be seen for what it is, a remarkable feat, and a gracious gift for it is through the perfection of Jesus that we receive eternal salvation (John 1:29). 

It’s used to deflect our need to grow

As stated in the paragraph above, the people who use this phrase are often trying to pardon their wrongdoing or the wrongdoing of someone else. As Christians we ought to be disappointed when our mentality is to cover up our mistakes instead of growing from them. The Bible writers encourage us over and over again to mature in our faith. Paul wrote to Timothy that he must present himself to God as one approved (2 Tim. 2:15). The audience of Hebrew letter was scolded for their lack of growth (Heb. 5:11-6:1). Peter encourages his Christian audience to “long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). For all Christians there is a responsibility to mature and become more like Christ (or “sanctified” as Romans 6:22 puts it). Saying “only Jesus was perfect” (in the sense mentioned above) causes us to be spiritually stagnant baby Christians.

It’s used as an excuse for apathy instead of motivation for action

This point is very much related to the previous one. Instead of correcting the sin in their life, users of this hit-and-run phrase will move past it, never allowing any rebuke or encouragement to shape their way of living. This isn’t necessarily apathetic in the sense of action, though it could be in some cases. Many of these people are very active participants in what they believe Christianity to be. They have not an apathy to action, but to change as they are content with how God sees them at that moment and have no desire to be anything more like Him. If we’re going to hold Jesus up as being perfect then we also have to hold Him up as being someone who called out the wrongdoings of others (Mt. 6:2, 5, 7, 16) and inspired a change in life to those he encountered (John 8:11; Luke 19:8). The perfection of Jesus is not an excuse to free us from changing our life, it’s a goal that we aspire to. The same Jesus that lived a perfect life, comes to each one of us and says “follow me.”

The next time you see someone use the phrase “only Jesus was perfect” don’t let them off thinking they’ve hammered the final nail in the debate coffin. Stop them and let them know that, 1) He did live a perfect life and 2) His perfect life should motivate us to greater action, growth, and transformation in our lives.


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Jack Dodgen is an associate minister in Mannford, OK where he lives with his beautiful wife, Anna, and adorable son, Luke. He is also a Bible student, avid blogger, basketball aficionado, and music junkie.

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