Thursday, January 01, 2009

Perfection - Part 3

The Impossibility of Perfection

I ended my last post by suggesting that Jesus ethic of perfection, as found in Matthew 5:48, is not practically applicable, certainly whilst on this earth. If the answer to the question, 'how perfect is perfect?' is 'Jesus', then I think the Bible quite clearly shows us it is a standard we will never reach. In fact, if I think back through the life of Jesus, it is absolutely incredible how He lived His life, and how He died His death. We don't know all the details of every day of His life, but we know that when He was tried (unfairly) and murdered (unjustly) He didn't complain. He didn't fight back. He was hurting - physically, emotionally and spiritually (think of that anguished cry - My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?), yet he took it all upon Himself. He saw it through - He did God's will in spite of what that required of Him. How can I even begin to think about trying to reflect that sort of perfection?

So if it is impossible to achieve this perfection on earth, why does Jesus ask us to? Is it about trying to even though we know we wont fully achieve it. Is it about always steadily trying to become more and more holy (perfect) as we live our lives? Is this part of our purpose? To become holy, or at least, as holy as we can before we leave this earth?

The Case for Imperfection

I have been part of the evangelism cluster group at my church for a while now and I have found myself increasingly wondering why it is that people would refuse to enter a church. I have found that there are numerous reasons, and though it may not be the most common reason, I have certainly heard it said that people sometimes look into a church and think they could never belong. Why? because apparently everyone in church is sorted. Now those of us within the church would certainly know that is not true - but do we sometimes give that perception?

Thinking about that made me think about what people would think of me upon looking into my church. I am quite involved in my church. I lead a cell group, I am part of the songsters (senior choir), I am a salvation army soldier and I wear a uniform, I am part of the evangelism cluster and the worship band. I think anyone who really knows me knows that I am in no way 'sorted'. Very very far from it, particularly right now, so I would hate to think that anyone would look at me, and think to themselves that they could never be that 'sorted' and so would never belong.

This makes the case for not being afraid to show, or at least admit our imperfections. Are we too British? Do we try to keep our 'business' to ourselves too much? The truth is, I don't really know what to think. I was recently told by a non-Christian that my faith was obviously not working for me bearing in mind some of the things I am dealing with right now. If I hadn't have told this person about some of my failures and rubishness, they may still be under the illusion that my faith is 'working', but then I would be in danger of falling into the trap of making Chrisitanity - or church - look un-approachable.

I think its always the right thing to do to be honest, but at the same time, does that necessarily have to mean telling everyone everything about your life? If you are grumpy one day, should we hide it and pretend we aren't and that we are full of the joy of the Lord? (especially if we are helping to lead worship - I do sometimes have this problem being in the worship band!)

It seems whatever you do it is wrong - either you are sharing too much and therefore being unhelpful to other people in their worship, their experience of faith (or indeed their introduction to faith), or you are not sharing emough and making people think that Chrisitans have no problems and are therefore completely unapproachable.

Writing this has helped me to think about it a little, and I think I may have reached a few of my own conclusions:

  1. Being honest doesn't have to mean telling everyone everything - it means telling the truth when asked. Pretending to be someone you are not isn't the same thing as not telling EVERYONE EVERYTHING about who you are. (True or not?)
  2. Those people who think that Christianity is something they couldn't look into because they aren't perfect enough, are bound to meet a Christian in their lives. Hopefully, this Christian in their life would be someone who was close enough to them, and honest enough to show them that that is not true. If that is their perception, it must be because they have never had an honest, deep, one-to-one with a person who has experienced the grace of God in their life.
  3. Maybe sometimes, trying so hard to be perfect, or trying to be honest about our own imperfections, however genuine the motive, is actually being too focused on ourselves. If I try instead to focus on God and on others - to think of myself less, I will worry less about what perception I am giving off; less about what other people might be thinking of me, and more about them and God.

In all honesty, I wonder if number 3, in essence, is part of the process of becoming more holy. I don't think I will ever achieve number 3 whilst here on this earth. But I can certainly make an attempt. So maybe attempting to become holy is not about me - but is about how much I think about God and others?