Striving for perfection is a carrot that some of us chase. The pursuit of perfection is destructive and paralyzing. You may be one who is plagued with self-inflicted perfectionism. You are hard on yourself. You can’t tolerate making mistakes and hold yourself to unrealistic expectations. You’re the one who mentally flogs yourself and feels inadequate when you fall short of your expectation. Maybe you don’t put those demands on yourself but feel the pressure from others. You feel you must live up to their expectations. You try to be the perfect spouse, parent, employee, daughter, or son. When the expectation of others presses in too hard, you may misrepresent yourself to make things seems better than they really are. Our efforts to be perfect may be rooted in our deepest insecurities. The fear that we are not good enough creates misery for us and that is often reflected onto those around us. The fact is, we can’t be good enough. We do not have the ability to be perfect.
Scriptures – Matthew 5:43-46, 48; Romans 3:20, 22, 5:8; Luke 10:41-42
Verse – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that?” (Mt 5:43-46) “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. (Rm 3:20) We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. (Rm 3:22)
Thought – In our Christian life, we don’t have the ability to be perfect. We can read through the Ten Commandments and maybe feel good about 1 or 2 of them. For that reason, God sent Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice, to die for our imperfections, our sins. His once-and-for-all payment provided grace to cover all the ways we fall short of perfection. No amount of personal effort, work or sacrifice can make you good enough, you can’t make yourself holy. Grace takes the pressure off. When you truly understand grace, it changes the way you think, relate to others…the way you live. In the Scripture passage (above) Matthew 5:48, Jesus says we need to be perfect like God. When that is stated as a free-standing fact, we are defeated before we even start. But, reading it in context we realize that we are being called to be perfect in love for one another, both those within the faith and those outside the faith. Our ability to live as God asks is solely dependent on God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s power within us. When you receive Christ as Lord and Savior you put on grace, like a robe covering everything that you can’t fix, all your sin, shame, imperfection. When God looks at you, he just sees that perfect robe provided by Jesus.
Questions – Do you serve God and then expect some benefit or deal in return? Why do some Christians think that “working for God or giving” somehow pays for their failures? When you fail or don’t meet your own expectations, do you take it in stride, or do you tend to feel ashamed and inadequate? How do you respond to others when they fail to meet your expectations? Is your response the same whether it’s a family member, friend, or acquaintance?
Response – Think of some ways you are not realizing grace in your own life or extending it to others. Thank God for his gift of grace. Strive to be all that you can for God but give yourself grace when you fall short of your hopes and expectations.
Prayer – Lord, thank you for the grace that Jesus paid for on the cross which covers my flaws, sins, and every imperfection. Help me to forgive others and extend grace in the same way that you have extended your grace to me. In Jesus’ Name I pray, amen.