Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48
Good afternoon Father!
Good afternoon Jon!
When I read this verse that came during Jesus’ discourse to the crowd on a hill near the sea of Galilee, it has often awakened dis-ease about my own tendency toward perfectionism. The wisdom of today is that perfectionism is not good. It seems to lead to a lot of criticism, both of self and of others. Also a lot of dissatisfaction and unfinished projects, as work is seldom accounted good enough to be called complete. I know it is behind my difficulty in putting away the tools and trappings of a task; it is obviously not quite done. I can certainly observe these negative effects of trying to be perfect. I know that sinking feeling when a mistake I have made comes to light, even when I am the discoverer of the problem and know I have to report it to those affected. I also know, though, that Your Word never gives bad advice and that no unwholesome directive ever crossed Jesus’ lips. How should a recovering perfectionist view this passage?
I Am the example Jesus gave to emulate. Like so many of the standards that Jesus cited, it is simply not possible for man who is decaying in the ravages of sin to attain the mark. That was His point. He was preaching against the prevailing way; do all kinds of dark things, don’t spend any time examining whether they are right or wrong, then bring a sacrifice at the prescribed time to atone for one’s wrongdoings. Much of that sermon on the mount was aimed at trying to get the people to understand that their way of looking at their deeds and God’s way of assessing them were not the same.
Today, the prevailing way is to compare oneself to one’s friends and neighbors, or even the evildoers heard about on the news, saying, “I am better than that, so I must be OK”. Jesus is still speaking in this sermon: I Am holy and I Am not impressed by self-excusing attitudes. Jesus wanted it to become obvious after his crucifixion and resurrection that placing faith in Him as having suffered in place of all was the only way out from under the condemnation that was due to all, for all had fallen short. (Romans 3:23)
So it is with “being perfect”, with My perfection as the standard to meet. Let’s say, from today forward, you never executed another flawed action or entertained a motive or thought that failed to live up to everything you were created for. You would still only have to turn around an look to yesterday’s failures to prove that you were already disqualified. This is why Paul explicitly points out that under the law, no flesh is justified. (Galatians 2:16) The Gospel is one of grace. We know you cannot pull yourself out of the mire of sin by your bootstraps. That is why Jesus came as an unblemished lamb to be the sacrifice for all who would trust in Him and rely on His provision for them.
Back to your question about being perfect. Now you know that you are not under the standard of the law any longer but are under grace instead, you can examine your deeds and grow to be mature and complete in the things I have designed you for. Even the negative programming you have operated under, with regard to perfectionism, you can recognize as falling short of how I Am. Wanting to be like me, you make adjustments and grow as a result. Now you strive for better because you love Me and you rely on the Holy Spirit to enable you. It is not the misguided basis for justification.
Thank You Father! I love You!
You are welcome! I love you!