The Quest for Perfection
by Sarah Phillips
You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48
The Scripture above is one most of us would read with some perplexity. As Christians we know we're sinners in need of a Savior. Every Sunday at church we thank God for His divine intervention through Christ's death on the cross.
Yet the very One sent to die for us seems to be asking us here to be that which we know we can't: perfect. Not just really, really good. But perfect in the way God is perfect.
Now if you're a perfectionist like me, you may already have your pen out to list all your weaknesses so you can strategize the best plan to eradicate them from your life.
This isn't a bad exercise, but I've often become easily frustrated and tired when I set out to perfect myself. That's precisely the problem with this approach - it's all about me, myself, and I. An old friend of mine, in his quest to eliminate his selfish attitude, would often exclaim with much exasperation: "I keep trying to get rid of my selfishness but in the process of trying to improve myself, I end up focusing on my self all the time!"
It's hard to stifle a smile at his candor. It seems God has something better in mind for us than a glorified self-help program.
Perhaps the verse above is easier to understand when cast in a different light. Peter doesn't use the word "perfect" but instead calls believers to "holiness":
" … but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct: since it is written ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1: 15 - 16)
Holiness transcends what someone does (or doesn't do) and ties directly into who God is. As believers, we aren't necessarily called to be "perfect" by the world's standards, but instead to reflect God's nature to others. His goodness, truth, strength, and love.
The only way we can accurately reflect God to others is to strive daily to know God. To be in His presence. To meditate on His Word. Unlike the futile self-help approach, the more we focus on God, the less self-focused we become. And the more available we make ourselves to His transforming grace in our lives.
"Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self." ~ St. Francis of Assisi
Intersecting Faith & Life: Do something this week that requires you to "forget" yourself and your struggles. Serving those in need is usually a good way to do this.
2 Samuel 22: 31
Matthew 19: 21