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?


Liz said...

I'd like to pick up on what the 'Non Christian' said....your faith is not working for you....Isn't it funny how faith is percieved as a 'thing', something akin to a mobile phone for example. When you have no signal on your phone, it's not working for you, when you life is in a heap as a Christian, your faith is not working for you.

I am putting a thought together here that says some thing like this:
Our personal faith in God should surely be so integral to us that it becomes part of who WE are as opposed to a thing we carry with us and maybe that's a bit of the issue with people not wanting to come to church - they see the 'add ons' ( faith, membership, commitment maybe) as extra burdens rather than helium balloons that are an outcome of having a realtionship with God.

When it appears that our faithis not working for us, because of all the rubbish, surely that's the time when it is, because you are not suddenly denying all God has done for you because of the rubbish. You are saying, ' In spite of the rubbish,I still believe and still want to try and work this stuff our and still KNOW at the end of it all that one day I will see face to face.

Be assured that Grace carries weight, is taller than etc in all the ways of measuring up when it comes to actually measuring up. x

Anonymous said...

The Word became flesh and lived among us. He did not come to judge us, but to give us a real example to follow. Even Jesus got properly angry, and had times when He wondered if things were going right (the Garden of Gethsemane).

Thanks for blogging about something thats been really bugging me, and I've not had the courage to talk about.

Kirst said...

Liz, thanks, I loved your comment - it was very apt. You said "You are saying, ' In spite of the rubbish,I still believe and still want to try and work this stuff our and still KNOW at the end of it all that one day I will see face to face.'"
I agree with this. It is something I have been thinking about a lot at the moment. In spite of the rubbish, I do still believe and want to work this stuff out. In fact, the rubbish is giving me a much fuller understanding of the grace of God than I have ever had before, and to be honest, it is blowing me away a bit.

It's hard for a non-Christian to understand that though. I explained to him that I didn't become a Christian in order to try to have a better life on earth. I don't think being a Christian saves anyone from hurt or pain or sadness. I don't believe because it 'works' for me, I believe because I believe. I just do. Its hard for him to see that though, and I guess that is mainly because he sees it as an added extra to life like you said. Hmm. Very interesting.

Anomynous - no problem. I felt quite courageous when I pressed the 'publish' button! And whilst I find reading about the garden of gethsemane very painful (I get emotional on Jesus' behalf!) I also love it because it shows how human Jesus was. To be honest, I just think that makes him even more incredible - that he felt so incredible awful about it and yet still went through it. Wow! What a guy!!!!

Liz said...

Read The Shack Kirsty! I have fallen in love with Jesus...again....during my reading of it!!!!!

Kirst said...

I got it for Christmas!!!

Pam McCredie said...

Good to have you back Kirsty! And as deep, personal and profound as ever.
Like Liz says, it is because we believe and have hope despite the rubbish that our faith works.
Hang in there, remembering you in our prayers!

Liz said...

HAve you started reading it yet? Liz x

Kirst said...

Yep. I have. Its quite sad so far. I am finding it very very easy to read though. It is engrossing. I have a feeling its about to get even more interesting though!

Dawn said...

I almost stopped it got so heart-wrenching, but, I picked it up again a couple of hours later and I think part of getting through that part is part of the point of the book.

It will be worth it!

I was explaining it to my brother-in-law's parents today, and I just ranted for SO long! I must have looked very silly!

Kirst said...

In all honesty - I am very surprised nobody has blogged about it yet the amount I am hearing about it! I have been reading it during my lunch-breaks so haven't been getting all emotional about it - my desk is not the time or place for that. I have a feeling I am going to have to start reading it at home though. I had a wobbly chin moment the other day with it!

Liz said...

I think that I didn't want to spoil it for anyone, so have kept schtum, other than just being a walking, talking ad for it!

Dawn said...

Ditto. If you blog it, it gaves the game away. I think it needs to be a new experience and one you have to do yourself.