I am a perfectionist. I am better than I used to be. Though, this may be hard to believe if you know me. In high school, I took numerous art classes, and I loved painting. My teacher, however, would eventually come around to my desk and say something like, “Miranda, you have to quit repainting that and move on to something else.” It was hard for me to turn in a project that I did not feel completely satisfied with. I was content to paint and repaint until it was up to my standards. As people, we seem to have a love/hate relationship with the idea of perfection. Some of us long for it, while others find the idea appalling. So much so, that if anyone tries to question a portion of our lives that is not perfect, we will set them straight immediately by pointing out their endless imperfections. We certainly do not want to be alone in this scary place where we do not measure up. What does this mean for believers, though? How do we handle this dilemma?
I am afraid that too often we reconcile it in the same way as the world. We become defensive and make excuses for our actions because confronting the sin that is in our own lives is too painful. After all, what is a famous “Christian” saying? “Well, I’m not perfect.” We are not perfect, and we will not be until the day we step into our glorified body in Heaven. However, what does Scripture say about this impossibility we call perfection?
Matthew 5:48 says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The standard in our lives as believers has been set, and that standard is high. That standard is Christ who was perfect. I am no Greek scholar, but those wiser than I define this word “perfect” as complete. It is a sign of maturity; a continual growth in one’s moral character. We are in the process, or should be, of growing spiritually daily toward our perfection that will be completed in heaven one day. It is not enough, then, to say that we are not perfect as an excuse for whatever sin we harbor. We are supposed to be daily striving to be more like Christ.
2 Corinthians 7:1 declares, “Therefore, dear friends, since we have such promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, completing our sanctification in the fear of God.” This verse is set in the context of being separate from the world. The preceding verses discuss how we are not to be married to unbelievers, that light and dark have no place together, and that we are God’s sanctuary, and there is, therefore, no place for idols within us. We are to be consecrated or set a part because we are God’s. The promise is that we will be His sons and daughters if we choose to be called out of this world (6:18). If we know we are the children of God, then we ought to be cleansing “ourselves from every impurity;” things that are physical (flesh) and those that are inward (spiritual). Our thoughts, actions, and heart must be pure before the Lord. This is how our sanctification is complete. We are not afraid of God, but we do what He commands because we respect and honor Him for who He truly is; our Lord.
Paul says so beautifully through the Holy Spirit the solution to this dichotomy; the need to be perfect and the impossibility of doing so. Philippians 3:12 says, “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.” Paul knows he has not reached perfection, but he is reaching for it because his life has been taken over by Christ his Savior. In verses 13-14, he describes it as forgetting the past and reaching forward to the prize which is promised by God in Christ Jesus. It is a goal he seeks to meet. In verse 15, he says that “all who are mature should think this way.” This is the proper way to live a Christian life. I love what he says in verse 16: “In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.” Whatever spiritual level of maturity you or I are on, we should be seeking to live by that standard. That means, if we know it is wrong to drink, gossip, cuss, have premarital sex, or be judgmental, then, if we do those things, we are not simply being “imperfect” Christians. We are sinning out rightly against the standard that we know is true in our lives.
It is easier to say that we are not perfect and sweep our sins under the rug. Yet, as those who desire to be like Christ, we must confront our imperfections, repent, and ask forgiveness for them. We have to sweep them out of our lives. This does not make us perfect, but it means that we are striving to be the most mature Christians we can be. We are desiring Christ’s approval over the world’s or even our own.
I hope you are encouraged to be the most perfect creation of Christ that you can be. After all He has done, He is certainly worth imitating. Be blessed!