Have you ever felt like a lost cause? Like you could never change or never be good enough? I have. I’d like to expound on why that thought is so dangerous to ourselves and to those around us.
“Be ye therefore perfect,” Jesus commanded. With four words, we can transform the Prince of Peace’s commandment into a massive guilt trip. Have a bad habit? Good luck. Yell too loudly at your kids? Heaven’s full. Skip church? Twenty lashings.
“Perfect” in American school systems means a 4.0 GPA. Perfect means making every touchdown, taking every shot, saying all the right things, pleasing all the right people. That’s exhausting. That doesn’t like the comfort Christ promised us. That’s because it’s not. This method of thought is invoked by fear, and it’s what we’d be living in if it wasn’t for Christ.
If we were to apply the above scenario to faith it would look like this: We’re born. From early on, our brains are learning, adapting, surviving. We pick up on new things, analyze them, and ask ourselves, “what is this? will it help me? is it dangerous?” We do that until we die. Every day we have thousands of thoughts like that. If we’re judged by our thoughts (which we are), then one thought out of the thousands that go by during the day, could keep us out of heaven. Let’s say we are a master of our thoughts. Any micro groan, frustration, pride or other emotion of our heart would surely betray us. We haven’t even talked about being judged for our actions. Let’s say we all live like that. Our hearts, minds and strengths are “perfectly” attuned to what we’re supposed to do. We live like until one day we mess up. (Or it’s not you, it’s someone else). At that moment, you’ve lost your spot in heaven. If you’ve lost your spot in heaven, all good you do would be in vain, because you’d never see the full effect of it. You’ve broken your end of the deal, and now the contract is broken. Feel free to sin and be miserable because there’s no point in being righteous. Now, you’re hellbound. And once you’re hellhound, it’s that much easier for those around you to be hellbound too. Misery loves company after all. So you tempt others and drag them down to hell with you like lobsters in a boiling pot of water. Soon, everyone is corrupt and everyone is dragging everyone else down. Before you even die and experience real hell, you’ve already created it for yourself and everyone around you.
But that’s not what perfect is.
“Perfect” translates to “whole” or “complete.” We read“this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God.” In faith it would look like this: you feel your lungs taking in its final few breaths. You know your time on earth is running out. You know in your heart you’ve done your best to live a good life, albeit one with many errors, but you’re ready for what comes next. Did you not fulfill your purpose? Are you not prepared? Are you not complete? Are you not perfect?
Perfect, the way I understand it, is a process. It’s shedding out of our old shell one micro-thought, one micro-error at a time and growing into something more complete. It’s not avoiding errors or mistakes, because they will come (you can be sure of that). So the question is, what will we do when they come? Will we accept defeat and abandon the good we’ve already accumulated? Or will we try again? We’ve seen what happens when we’ve accepted defeat, and that’s hell.
What heaven awaits us for those who try?