How might you unintentionally be preaching the perfectionism of Santa Claus over the grace and goodness of Christ in your church?
By Caroline Case
Like many Americans this past week, I began decorating my house in hopes of amping up my Christmas cheer. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” was on the holiday decorating playlist. But as I listened to the music, I began to hear the lyrics differently.
Although I didn’t grow up in a house that preached Santa, I never questioned the veracity of the lines:
He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice,
He’s gonna find out whose naughty or nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
I never believed in Santa, but I found this man’s desire to “check his list” for the good kids and the bad kids absolutely plausible. Why wouldn’t the good kids deserve toys and the bad kids deserve coal? That’s what we call justice.
And now, twenty years later listening to the song, I began to wonder, “What if Jesus had a list?” Turns out He does.
“And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15, CSB).
God’s got His own list of names, and the placement of your name determines the status of your eternal destination. But thankfully, Jesus manages His list a lot differently than Santa Claus. Santa knows if I’ve been bad or good, erasing my name if I don’t meet his standard. Jesus never erases my name because He met the standard for me and paid the price for my own shortcomings.“Thankfully, Jesus manages His list a lot differently than Santa Claus.” — Caroline Case Click To Tweet
“In the same way, the one who conquers will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name before my Father and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5, CSB).
Weakness over perfectionism
I can confidently say my name is written in the Lamb’s book of life—not because of anything I’ve done but because I have trusted in the Lamb who was slain for me. I laugh at the thought that I could ever scribble my worn, sinful name onto His holy list.
And yet sometimes in the church, we unintentionally preach perfectionism—the way of Santa Claus. At times, we view God as the “big man upstairs” who’s checking His list, separating the rule followers from the rule breakers. Hear the accusation in this holiday tune:
He knows if you’ve been bad or good.
You better be good for goodness’ sake.
Can you imagine if Jesus were more like Santa? What if He’s looking down from heaven, waiting to cross our names off His list when we sin? This Christmas, pastors and church leaders have the opportunity to seriously question some of the core beliefs we have about God—and how we communicate them to our congregation.“This Christmas, pastors and church leaders have the opportunity to seriously question some of the core beliefs we have about God—and how we communicate them to our congregation.” — Caroline Case Click To Tweet
Do we really preach grace? Or do we subconsciously think God expects perfection? Do we think God is keeping score? How can we better preach the God of second chances and erasers?
How much more enriched would our churches be if we reminded our group members of the freedom that is imperfection? Of the freedom that is grace? We can remind them of the spotless Lamb who came down to save us from ourselves.
And finally, when we no longer live aiming for perfection, we can aim a little higher. Jesus knows our every thought and move. Jesus “knows if we’ve been bad or good,” but by His grace, we are good for His sake—not goodness’ sake.
Caroline is a proud Nashville transplant from Naples, Florida. Caroline has a Bachelor of Communication from Palm Beach Atlantic University and is pursuing her Master of Arts in English at Belmont University.
This article was originally published on Lifeway Adults.
For permission to republish this article, please email Marissa Postell Sullivan.