The Christian Perfectionist
You know who I’m talking about. The person who examines everything with a fine-tooth comb, looking for every inconsistency, fault, failure, and imperfection. Nothing is ever good enough for the perfectionist. Instead of seeing the positive and the good, they only see how everything just isn't quite right yet. And many of us are these Christian perfectionists. We’ve vowed to be the best we can be for God and are diligent in our church attendance, Bible study and prayer life. We do our darnedest to do everything we think God desires of us, examining our spiritual activities for flaws and imperfections. But sometimes our obsessive perfectionism takes us to a place that becomes exactly the opposite of where God really wants us to be on many levels.
The Oxford American Dictionaries definition of:
• noun 1 refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. 2 Philosophy the doctrine that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable.
On one hand, the goal of perfection can be a good thing. If it wasn’t for perfectionists, many great things would not have been created and passed along to us. Perfection has helped create great achievements in medicine, education, engineering, economics, architecture, science, technology, etc. Much of the world is here because there were people who sought the ideal and ultimate perfection of a world they envisioned. But the desire for perfection has a downside. Perfection is terrific if you're building a rocket to Mars, but bad when applied to Christianity, people and even yourself.
What would you say about the Church Choir Director who wants to make the music perfect for Sunday Service, but screams and humiliates the choir members to get it right? The notes and harmonies are perfect, but the spirit has been driven out of the singers.
Which is more important?
Or the deacon of a church who tells a homeless man who wanders into the church to please leave because he is disrupting the Special Easter Pageant?
Or again, how about the parent who goes into a room to pray, but when interrupted by the child who sticks his head in the door, is reprimanded, "I TOLD YOU I'M PRAYING! GET OUT OF HERE!"
The Pharisees were the ultimate perfectionists about the traditions, laws, commandments and rituals in their service to God…but didn’t perfect what was in their hearts. They couldn’t allow for compassion, flexibility, or forgiveness because it meant accepting imperfection in people.
Hello? Are you with me?
Because of the idea of "ultimate perfection", many of the problems of the world are caused by people who think that other people are not racially, economically, politically, culturally, morally, socially, spiritually, and even genetically, as perfect…as they are. And much family division, broken friendships and marriage problems have been because someone in the relationship gave up because they couldn't make it "perfect".
The Pharisees were quite good at being perfectionists, to the point that they avoided unclean food, unclean things and ultimately, unclean people.
The goal of perfection is idealism, but with that comes the inability to compromise. Everything becomes good or bad. Right or wrong. Black or white. Much fundamentalism is rooted in seeking the ideal because as people we want perfection. We think it will bring us closer to God. Though it sounds really great, there is a major pitfall in the goal of perfection: Intolerance of that which is not perfect, and as we all know...no one is perfect. No one. Intolerance of imperfection eventually results in the intolerance of certain people...which is basically the opposite of Jesus' teaching to "love your neighbor as yourself".
And in the eyes of some Christians, people who are not as perfect as they are, eventually become "sinners". Remember, anyone who accuses someone else of being a "sinner" is acknowledging to himself that he is NOT a sinner...not realizing he is instead branding himself as the perfect hypocrite.
We as GLBT people are victims of some fundamentalists and idealists who perceive us as people with spiritual, moral and even natural imperfections.
There are those who seek to make their brand of Christianity perfect, but it is actually an oxymoron. Christianity is not based on trying to be perfect. In fact in Jesus’ ministry, He sought all manner of people who were perceived by others to be imperfect, those with sin...but doesn't that mean every person on earth?
Jesus actually sought those who knew they were imperfect, those cast out by the perfect, because those who deemed themselves already perfect had no use for Him. They didn't think they had a problem.
And though Paul told the churches countless times to stop their infighting because some Christians wanted to serve God more perfectly than others, our churches today are still divided among each other instead of being united because we can't agree on that perfect way we think we should serve God.
Jesus came and died for the imperfection of the world.
He sacrificed Himself so that those deemed imperfect would be perfected in Him. And He insists that His followers receive others with imperfections just as He has received us, telling us to love our neighbors and enemies and forgive those who have acted imperfectly. He also tells us not to judge each other for our imperfections. Yet the main goal of many Christians is still to drive out imperfections in their homes, churches and community. Instead they have become the new Pharisees of our time. Thinking themselves morally superior they latch on to legalism, living the life of rules and regulations (as the Pharisees) believing they are closer to perfection because they live more perfectly than "immoral sinners". They have forgotten that it is not us that perfects ourselves, but Jesus who has made us perfect by His sacrifice for us. And Jesus desires not a life of legalism but a life filled with the Holy Spirit.
We cannot perfect ourselves by trying to avoid sin or getting rid of sinful people around us because that is NOT what Christianity is about. Some have made Christianity about cleansing themselves of sin and sinners just as the Pharisees, instead of the Good News of Jesus who has welcomed everyone regardless of their imperfections, so they can be cleansed and perfected by Him.
The thing about trying to be perfect is...it is YOU trying to perfect yourself. So then where is God? Many of us try to live perfectly. We try to watch our behavior, our thoughts and our actions, but all that really happens is our failure, shortcomings and imperfections magnify. Our trying so hard becomes harder and harder as we focus more and more on ourselves. It is easy to fall into the legalistic life of the Pharisees. This is why there are so many nervous Christians out there. We beat ourselves up because we don't think we're good enough and don't deserve the grace that God has given us. But this is exactly why Jesus died for us...because we can never be good enough and don't deserve Him. But He grants us grace because He loves us. God knows our hearts and knows we're trying. And He loved us so much that He sent Christ to redeem us from that sin and imperfection. If we could attain perfection on our own, then we would not need Jesus. Rather it is Jesus who has already cleansed us to perfection.
If we really want to be perfect spiritually then we need to submit ourselves to God and serve Him, not by trying to perfect ourselves and everything around us, but by following His commandments of love. To love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and by learning to love His people perfectly despite their imperfections and to perfectly forgive them their imperfections as He has forgiven us our imperfections.
Living for God perfectly means relying on the Holy Spirit to help and guide us to naturally live the life of Christ. God does not desire us to seek spiritual perfection for its own sake, but just to seek Him. And in seeking and relying on Him, we become perfected in Jesus Christ. Through humbleness and submission to the Holy Spirit, God leads us to His perfect service which blossoms into love, understanding, compassion and forgiveness for all those around us.
God's perfect way.
Rest in Jesus and leave the perfecting to Him.
© 2005 Edrick
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