Are you a perfectionist?
I know I’m not, at least not in most areas. After writing my last blog and publishing it I saw mistakes I hadn’t seen when I first sent it. I must have gone through it several times to make changes. (So possibly I would like my writings to be as polished as possible.) But when it is all said and done, perfect or not — it is what it is.
I once heard that you can tell about how organized an individual is or if a person possesses a perfectionist attitude by looking through their pots and pans cupboard. I’m sure that isn’t a “perfect” measurement. It reminds me of all those silly quizzes on Facebook to find out what movie star you resemble or what kind of flower you are (?) or if you’re an optimist. But I looked anyway. Apparently if it is messy you are definitely NOT a perfectionist. I opened my cupboard already knowing it would be in disarray and it was.
But I’ve also heard that a lot of those people who are not perfectionist have artistic talents. I am sure that many have painted exquisite modern art.
Perfectionist, on the other hand, seem to have a harder time starting many projects and/or completing them because if it isn’t perfect, it isn’t happening. How do I know this? Because I am married to one of these people. When he DOES complete a project it really IS close to perfect. (The colors might be off because he is color blind. But that is another story.)
I would rather just get a project done. I recall hanging a huge wooden picture above our fireplace. I simply pounded in a lot of nails and/or screws into the wall and then crisscrossed wires on the wall to make sure the picture was somewhat attached to the wall. When we moved it was such a mess that we sold the house with that huge picture still strung up to the wall. I wonder if it was ever taken down.
I said all that to say that when those people who do not consider themselves to be a perfectionist read what Jesus said at the sermon on the mount they might be a little bit frustrated.
“You therefore must be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt 5:48 (ESV)
And the perfectionist might take it to the extreme; always striving to be that better person and yet finding themselves falling short of their expectation. What does that verse even mean? Of course we cannot be perfect, we are only human and destined to fail.
Some people have stated that they believe that statement was intended to teach people to love unconditionally as our Heavenly Father loves unconditionally. And since the surrounding verses are speaking of love, that might be so.
But the question I faced was HOW do we become perfect as God is perfect?
This is what I believe:
I believe that Jesus was setting a standard. That standard wasn’t to be like those around us. It wasn’t to be as good as our favorite pastor, as nice as that sweet neighbor that brought us cookies at Christmas, or as kind as our closet friend that is there for us night and day. He was setting a higher standard. That standard was to do as God does, and to only compare our lives to his.
But how do we obtain that ability to be perfect?
Well we actually can’t in and of ourselves. This is where the blood of Jesus comes to play. Because Christ died for our sins and covered our imperfections, we can now come boldly before the throne of grace.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
So we can boldly come to God because of Christ’s blood and ask for his grace to help us live the life he desires and that we desire. Our Heavenly Father sees Jesus in us as we stand before him. He sees us perfect because of the blood of Christ that covers our sins.
Remember the last plague in Egypt when the angel of death struck the first-born in all the land? But they passed over the houses of the children of Israel because they obeyed the Lord and put the blood of a sacrificial lamb on the door post.
“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” Exodus 12:13 (NIV)
So though I am imperfect…Christ’s blood has perfected me. So when Jesus stated that we must be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect we can rest assured that it is HIS perfection shining through us. We do not need to struggle with being perfect outside of him. And he has granted us his grace to accomplish what he has put in front of us, whether it is to be kind to our neighbor, forgive those who have harmed us, start a new business or preach in front of thousands.
Remember: Because he IS LOVE, his love is perfect.
If God IS love and perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18) than God will cast out any fear or doubt we might have about how we can accomplish the tasks he sets before us. He will help us to see ourselves differently, help us to treat others better and teach us to be more like him.
Thank you Lord for your perfect love and for teaching us to be perfect even as you are perfect. Amen.