2.26.2011

Thoughts on Perfection

The human story does not always unfold like a mathematical calculation on the principle that two and two make four.  Sometimes in life they make five or minus three; and sometimes the blackboard topples down in the middle of the sum and leaves the class in disorder and the pedagogue with a black eye. 
~Winston Churchill





I have never considered myself a "Perfectionist".

But even having made such a bold statement I can still definitely pull out the areas in my life where I desire perfection (even though I realize it's impossible).

Right now for instance, I am even having a hard time deciding how to approach such a broad topic. How do you try to perfect your thoughts on the idea of "perfectionism" when the whole basis of it is ironic if not hypocritical. Why is that I feel a need to strive for perfection when I know that it is impossible to achieve? Often when I get caught up in a need for perfection I become overly critical of not only myself, but others surrounding me. I set myself up for a cycle of impossible expectations, worry, and ultimately disappointment. By doing this I often miss noticing the growth I did experience simply because I deemed it as "not enough".

Here is the truth:

As human beings we can never achieve perfection. It does not matter how much we strive for perfection or how hard we work. God has called us as Christians, however, to do our very best to obey him in all circumstances and to model ourselves after Christ, seeking perfection in a right relationship with God. Then, although we cannot achieve perfection on our own, God will make us perfect, holy and blameless before him through the blood of Christ.

This makes sense to me, but at the same time I often forget this.
I was reading Matthew the other day and was struck by the following command...


"Be perfect, therefore, as your
 heavenly father is perfect."             


  Matthew 5:48

I then found this commentary that helped me to clarify what God was asking of us in the scripture.


"Is this a contradiction? Is God on one hand telling us that we cannot be perfect but on the other hand commanding that we must be so? Not exactly. The Greek for the word "perfect" in this verse is telios, a word which does not imply sinless perfection, but instead implies full development and growth into maturity of godliness. The emphasis of the verse falls more upon the "committed and close relationship with God." This verse is also in a context of love. The challenge is to love as the Father loves, not loving only those who love us, but loving even our enemies and those who persecute us."
                                                 - Matthew Ropp "Seeking Perfection""


At first it may be a tough thing to accept. I (by my own strength) will never be perfect, but then there is the grace that comes with such knowledge...knowing that I am loved as I am. I am accepted as I am. My perfection is not what will save me. To be loved as a perfect human being is maybe more logical of a reason (even as impossible as it is), but to be loved as the sinner I am is amazing and astounding. 


For even the Apostle Paul failed to reach perfection, and I gained further understanding by reading more in the previously mentioned commentary...


"If anyone might have obtained perfection or been guaranteed of his salvation, one would think the Apostle Paul would qualify. In Philippians 3:12-4, however, we see that such was not the case. "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Paul forgets what is behind, whatever accomplishments he has made up to this point and also whatever failures are in his life, and strains toward what is ahead. He longs to achieve salvation, to be made perfect in Christ Jesus. No matter what is in the past, whether good or bad, each day is new in Christ and from wherever we are there is always room to grow closer to God. Like Paul, each day we should press forward, straining toward what God has called us to through Christ. "

What do we need to learn?

That Perfection belongs to God alone. This is not reason to give up trying, but rather to realize that perfection on our own is never the goal. Only when entering into heaven will we enter into true perfection. A person could take this information and misconstrue it to mean that there is no point in trying. The danger is that the inability to be perfect is not an invitation to give up. Rather we are to press onward like Paul seeking  to be made perfect in Christ. What I have taken from all of this is that I need to be aware of what motivates my need for perfection. If it is to grow closer to God so that I become more and more like Christ, good. If it is to please those around me and the expectations the world sets, not good.

So being perfect is not about...


Perfection is knowing that God is perfect, and because of Christ I don't need to achieve perfection on my own.

(sigh)

How good is that?





1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reminding me of this sweet truth Britta :).

    ReplyDelete

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