The biggest problem we have is not understanding the difference between “perfection” in the worldly sense and the Biblical meaning of “being perfect.” I did a little study and found that the concept of being perfect in the sense of being flawless or faultless came into existence around 1200 AD through the teachings of the Roman Catholic church as a counter argument to the ideas of the Renaissance. In a nutshell, Renaissance thinkers began to put forth the idea that the greatest perfection is imperfection. That flew in the face of the Catholic church which relied on the financial contributions collected from people who needed the prayers of priests to keep them perfect enough to get into heaven. If imperfection is okay, people don’t need to pay for absolution… no coins in the coffer to run the business of the church means less power wielded in Rome. So… the simple thing was to espouse the idea that one must be totally without flaw or fault in order to be “perfect.”
Puritans captured this idea of perfectionism and folded into their Protestant ideals of moralism and virtue…one can attain moral perfection through the keeping of rules, regulations, and religious customs. Upon the idea of this moral perfection the Puritans established the religious fiber of our own country. As time went on and capitalism reigned supreme in America, the idea that one should only be satisfied with the highest standard became the cry of the corporate marketplace… and of the American culture: “We are the best. We expect the best. We deserve the best.”
Is it any wonder so many Christians, like my friend, struggle with accepting themselves as they are in all of their imperfection? According to contemporary cultural and religious thinking, we’ll never be “perfect” enough. Good thing God’s word doesn’t mean what we think it means. In the Old Testament “perfect” meant “full of peace and integrity,” and in the New Testament it meant “full of integrity and virtue; mature; having a sense of completion.” The love we have for others, ourselves, and for God is made perfect ONLY because we have been made into the image of Christ… nothing to do with us.
“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world” ~1 John 4:17
Don’t you love what Apostle Paul says to the Galatians…”Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3). In other words, “Boys, you weren’t good enough to get your spirit saved; why do you think you’re good enough to perfect yourself through your own works? It can’t be done by YOUR works!”
It’s our American culture, our religious tradition, and our pride that keeps us bound to the idea of “being perfect.” Tomorrow, we’ll look at some steps we can take to change our thinking about ourselves. In the meantime… take a look in the mirror. Tell that person looking back at you that they are PERFECT IN CHRIST!!