We are a perfectionist generation. Just glance at any social media site and you will find instructions on how to attain perfection (physical, intellectual, professional, social, cultural) and quick criticism of those who fail at perfection (celebrities, politicians, business people, and average Janes/Joes.) You will also find swarms of people pushing back on this attempt at perfection, claiming to be anti-perfectionists – though it is still the idea of “perfection” that inspires the response. The Internet allows us to seek out concepts that support perfection in many forms, whether real or fake, and this information seeps into our psyche to lay a foundation for a definition of “perfect.” Again, even for the sake of avoiding it. No one is free from this bombardment. It just is. Awareness of this fact is imperative because perfection begins to define aspects of humanity that might seem impenetrable; for example: God. We, a perfectionist generation, have placed “God” in the perfectionist’s box, thus changing who God is, completely.
As a result, we barely know him.
One of the countless consequences of this error is that very many people recoil at the smell of falsehood.
Of course, the language of perfection is in scripture. I am not here to argue its existence. What I do propose, though, is that humanity has placed its own definition of perfection in place of God’s definition of perfection.
This is going to require you, me, us to let go of so-called rational thinking for a moment and try to “have ears that hear” and “eyes that see.” This is no easy feat. I hope to challenge you to think differently about why we do and think and act in certain ways, think about where these beliefs arise from, and to consider how much it is worth to stay in the same stagnant place.
Or is it time to move into the promises that were made to us?
After being delivered from Saul, David sang, “This God – his way is perfect; the promise of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” (2 Samuel 22:31) and later, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Psalm 19:7.)
Jesus, in explaining that we must love even our enemies, states matter-of-factly, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48.)
Paul recounts a story about a personal struggle and writes, “Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9.)
The author of 1 John shows us that God literally is love and that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18.)
So there is much in the Bible about perfection. It is a part of Christian language. Perfection is something that we are “supposed to” strive for. But what, really, is perfection? The authors listed above give us the description of perfection that we should abide by: wholeness and love. Oh boy. That does not really make understanding any easier, does it? Wholeness and love are entirely elusive and abstract concepts that we can only try to strive for in our humanity. Selfishness, loathing, divisiveness, jealousy, arrogance, resentment, and other difficult emotions/actions get in the way of a full realization of this goal. Because it is so difficult, we just flat-out change the definition of perfection to reflect more attainable characteristics: regular church attendance, volunteer work, financial success, physical attributes, etc. With a warped understanding of perfection, it is no wonder we misconceive and transform God into something different than what God actually is.
God is not ruled by the “perfect” that we place on him.
Someone I deeply trust told me that, since we are made in God’s image, this means that all aspects of humanity exist in God. Think about that for a minute. This idea can do one of two things (at the very least) for you: 1. make you sigh with relief and give you permission to love yourself more, or 2. inspire a bit of anxiety over the fact that God may not be “perfect.” Well, at least, by the human definition of perfection.
Are we able to love a God that may not be … perfect?
How many times in scripture does God need to “fix” something he created? What about the book of Job? What about human suffering? Climate change? Etc.? Does he have control, at all? Why isn’t he doing anything about…?
I do not have an answer today, but an adjustment in how we think about God is being asked of us. If you believe that we are to be in relationship with a holy God, then it is time to consider under what conditions we are asked to be in this relationship. We have come to expect unconditional love – the truest, most pure form of love from the One who is Love – yet, we do not always believe that we are to return the same. At the slightest hint of “imperfection,” human hearts scatter. Do not get me wrong, I think God is worthy of our worship and is perfect – just not by the definition of “perfect” that we use for each other and for ourselves.
As we hold our own requirements for perfection in the face of God, we only blind ourselves to the truth. It is time to put them down.
Since you made it this far, I have a few questions to pose:
What would it mean to believe in a God that is not ruled by the standards of this world?
What would it mean to let go of tradition?
What would it mean, for you, to be in relationship with a heavenly Father that is all-loving and worthy, but is different than the God you imagined?