Reading “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” in Matthew 5:48 reminds me of all my imperfections—which are many, to be sure. The imperfection I hate most in my life is that I’m not perfect.
Those who struggle with perfection know too well the feeling of never really being good enough. We are like those children learning to write the alphabet for the first time, who tear their papers up the second they see they have malformed a letter. It makes no difference that they made it to the “R” without a problem. If the “S” looks sloppy then in the trash it goes. Practically perfect people are hard on themselves.
In psychological terms perfectionism is the belief that perfection can and should be attained. When that belief transforms into thinking anything less than perfect is unacceptable, problems set it. Through a perfectionist’s eyes, a person’s self-worth is determined by flawlessness. Of course, ideas of perfection vary from person to person. Perfectionists set rigid standards of performance for themselves and sometimes for others. They never feel they “measure up.”
One of my favorite movie lines comes from Mary Poppins when she humorously replies, “We practically perfect people never make mistakes.” Poppins, like most everyone else, links perfection to lack of mistakes. Sometimes Christians make the same error in reading the Bible. Actually, the word “perfect” in the above scripture is telios meaning finished, full grown, mature, lacking nothing, or brought to completeness. It has nothing to do with making mistakes or not being good enough.
People commonly think that all perfection is about is physical characteristics such as being good, successful, or sinless. When God speaks of perfection, he wants us to “be complete” by being spiritually one with his Son, Jesus Christ. This perfection is not designed to make us look good or perform flawlessly, but to let Christ’s life be manifest through us. Physical perfection is more concerned about actions we perform to a certain level, whereas spiritual perfection is about becoming totally dependent on God, letting him work through us to perform his will—not ours. It is not concerned about “self.”
The good news is that we are already perfect in God’s sight. We are reconciled through Jesus Christ and he lives in us. This comes not from our false concepts of trying to attain perfection or being good enough. It is a gift given freely to us. With Christ in us we are brought to completion and we lack nothing.
Will we make mistakes? Sure. But remember—the perfection spoken of in this scripture is not about what we do; it’s about what Christ does. His life in us makes us perfect.
Readers who enjoy Barbara’s articles will also enjoy her hilarious accounts of more than 40 years of life as a pastor’s wife. Zorro and Me – Adventures with a Masked Man and a Sword, Pleasant Word, ISBN 1414114850
Author: Barbara Dahlgren