When I read that CNN host Don Lemon said, “Jesus Christ, admittedly, was not perfect when He was here on earth,” I was not surprised, not because I have a disdain for Lemon, but because it is very difficult for human beings to understand the perfection that Jesus Christ met while on earth.
The Bible’s 1 Peter 2:22 clearly says there was no sin or deceit found in Jesus and Hebrews 4:15 also says Jesus was without sin. The problem is not with what is written about Jesus, but the fact that imperfect humanity cannot understand that someone could live a perfect life as Jesus did when He came to earth as God in the flesh (Matthew 1:23; John 1:14).
In Luke 18, a ruler called Jesus a “Good Teacher,” and Jesus replied, “No one is good but God alone.” Jesus was not saying He was not God, but trying to see if the man would admit that Jesus was God in the flesh, as the prophecies declared would come. In their conversation, Jesus had established that only God can be good, so if God is good then He is the definition and standard of what it means to be good.
When we say someone is “good” we are comparing them to our own behavior or a general consensus of what we believe “good” behavior is as a society. Of course, that differs from different societies and religions, but overall we compare our behavior to each other and set a standard of what is acceptable.
Even when we are on our best behavior in public, we see the intentions and attitudes we have when we are by ourselves. We may get praise from people for our “good” behavior, but they did not see our bad attitude, our selfish actions, or our outburst of bad language when no one else was around.
It is because we know this about ourselves that we see others as the same and we even have a difficult time believing that Jesus was sinless. We have a difficult time believing that Jesus never had a dirty thought or even cussed under His breath because we know ourselves and how often those things happen in our own lives. We project onto Jesus how we are, and that says more about us than it does about Jesus.
When Jesus said, “No one is good but God,” He was also saying there is a standard that we cannot meet on our own. Along with knowing our own human flaws, there is still the belief that we are generally “good people.” Because most people believe they are “good people,” they do not see that they are separated from God with what the Bible calls sin (Romans 6:23). We tend to think that we are on good terms with God because we are His creation, or that we can make up any deficiencies by doing good works.
Yet it was our separation from God through our sins that is why Jesus, who is God in the flesh, came to earth so that He would do what we could not. That was live a sinless life on earth and eventually die for our sins (1 John 3:5). Jesus lived a perfect life on earth, fulfilling all the laws and commandments that made Him a perfect sacrifice or, as 1 Peter 1:19 says, “a lamb without blemish or spot.”
Do I agree with Lemon and his statement about Jesus being imperfect? Absolutely not. Do I understand why Lemon thinks the way he does? Yes, I do.
We are so full of sin that we cannot even see sin for what it is which is an afront to God Himself (Psalm 51:4-6). Because we have no concept of what sin is, we have no concept of how perfect and Holy God is. When we have a low view of sin and a low view of God, then we have a low view of the sacrifice He made for us on the cross.
It was because of Jesus’s death on the cross that God took our sin and then made us who believe in Him righteous (Acts 16:31; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Most people believe they are in good standing with God because they have done good things, but Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that it is not about our works but the work of Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven of all of our sins.
This is not a teaching that is easily accepted with people who do not see that they are separated from God for their sin. It is even more difficult for people to understand that it is through the work of Jesus Christ, and not their own efforts, that they are able to be back in a right relationship with God.
Jesus is the only way to Heaven, according to John 14:6, and that will always be difficult for people to understand and acknowledge, but especially when they do not see Jesus as God in the flesh, who lived a perfect life, which made Him the perfect sacrifice.