Friday, December 19, 2008

Perfection - Part 2

Does God Expect Perfection?

Its interesting actually that the comments to the previous post follow the same train of thought I have been on. I want to start this post with the passage of scripture that first inspired it:

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48

For my Christian Theology A level I had a piece of coursework based on this passage which asked whether Jesus' ethic of perfection fails the test of practical application. I need to try to dig this essay back out again to find out what I thought back then. Now, having a bit more of an understanding of myself and who I am, I have been really trying to work out how there can be any common ground between passages such as this, and the advice that people often give me reminding me that aiming for perfection will always lead to disappointment.

I remember that one of my conclusions was that perfection will never be reached while we remain on earth, but that should not stop us from keeping that aim as a backdrop to all we do in life. However, I now know that the desire for perfection can seriously be damaging to your self esteem and so it seems that passages such as the above should be considered carefully before staking your life on it.

Both of the comments made I have considered too. Could this mean 'be the best you can be' rather than 'be perfect'. The problem I have with that is that it is not what the scripture says, and also, who is to say what 'the best I can be' is? How can I or anyone else say whether I have reached that goal or not? I do agree that we need to define what Jesus might mean by perfection. I tend to think that perfection means being the best at everything, and always doing the right thing. But if to fulfil the above scripture I have to be good at art, or dancing, or directions, then I might as well give up now!

I like the idea of comparing today's (or at least my own) idea of perfection with holiness. Surely that is what Jesus is talking about; living totally surrendered to God's will and being pure and righteous, not being good at art! I read up on it a little bit and found the following quote:

"God’s perfection means that God completely possesses all excellent qualities and lacks no part of any qualities that would be desirable for him." Wayne Grudem

This brings us right back to Dawns comment about us being as perfect as we are meant to be. I guess that my concern about how to define what perfection means for me can be answered simply by 'look at Jesus'. Surely the answer to the whole question of what perfection means is 'look at Jesus'.

So, does this fail the test of practical application? Actually yes, it does. But more about that in the next post! I know! You can't wait right?!?!?!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Perfection - Part 1

Before writing this post I want to acknowledge two things:
  1. Its been ages since I updated my blog. I have neither posted any new thoughts, nor updated my 'friends wot blog' list. Glyn was most upset about this after his astounding success of blogging every day not too long ago, and so because of that, Glyn is now at the top of my list. I will endeavour to update this properly in January.
  2. The lack of recent posting means that this topic (perfection) could turn out to be be very long. My posts are always long anyway, let alone when I haven't blogged for a while; so to try to not bore everyone to death, I have decided to split this up into (at least) three blog entries. This one will talk about 'me and perfection' (not that I think the two belong together), the next will talk about whether God expects perfection, and the last will talk about the perfection to come.

Me and Perfection

I overheard a conversation the other day where someone said, 'its not about perfection is it!'. This comment was made in relation to a carol service for the community put on by our church. I, somewhat facetiously, said, 'oh yes it is, perfection is everything'. Actually, in all honesty, I probably didn't say that, I can't remember exactly what I said, but it was certainly a comment suggesting that we should always aim for perfection.

I DID mean that tongue-in-cheek. I don't really think that a church carol service has to be perfect - I was genuinely joking. However, it did raise the point that I do have a bit of a perfectionist streak in me. I think I have mentioned on here before that I hate being called, or especially calling myself, a 'perfectionist'. If I was asked to imagine what a 'perfectionist' was like, I would immediately think of someone who was nearly perfect, and hated that they weren't quite there. That is the image conjured up in my mind when people call me that, and yet I am so far from that. I don't in any way think of myself as anywhere near perfect. I am not a perectionist because everything I do is always perfect, but because I HATE that it isn't. I know it may seem trivial to make this distinction, but it is really important for my understanding of who I am.

WHy do I say all this? The next couple of posts will say more about this, but the point is largely this: I think being a 'perfectionist' can cause all sorts of problems, and I am often being reminded that no-body expects me to be perfect, but I really struggle with the idea of not striving for that. I do want to be perfect, and I am not sure that I agree that I should start to tell myself its ok to be less than that. Not that I think I am, or ever will be, anywhere near reaching that goal, but surely its not wrong to strive for it anyway; to strive to be the best we can rather than excusing ourselves for being less than that and therefore never reaching our potential?

Like I said, I will expand on this thought in a more spiritual context in the next post. I guess this might come across as defensive, but I don't mean it in that way; these are genuine ponderings of mine, and I am not trying to make statements, of right or wrong, merely trying to work out my own issues in this area.