Aren’t you glad God isn’t a perfectionist. Well I certainly am. When I was a young Christian, there was much emphasis on ‘walking in the spirit’. It was how we described walking with the Lord, responding to His leading and promptings. It was all very exciting, discovering that all sorts of things could happen as we responded to the Holy Spirit. For me however it led to quite a tense way of being.
I read in Psalm 18:30 As for ‘God His way is perfect’ which I interpreted to mean there is a ‘right’ thing to be doing and a ‘right’ place to be at any moment. As a consequence ‘walking with the Lord’ felt like being on a tightrope that I might fall off at any moment. Not very restful, and definitely not ‘the unforced rhythms of Grace’ that Jesus talked about in Matthew 11:28 (from The Message)
If the Lords’ way was perfect I was not, and that caused a lot of tension until I read the next two verses in Psalm 18. ‘For who is God besides the Lord? and who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect’. Then in verses 35, 36 it says ‘You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me (no more tight rope for me!!) so that my ankles do not turn.’
I just love those verses. To know that while our God is perfect, He is not a perfectionist!! He is always there helping and strengthening me and ‘covering’ my shortcomings with His grace. He actually makes my way perfect by forgiving my shortcomings and overruling my mistakes with His love and grace. I just can’t imagine how many times the Lord has ‘covered ‘ for me, but I am so so grateful that He does.
A perfectionist is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as ‘one who aims at perfection in his work‘ or ‘one who holds that religious or moral perfection must be attained’. Sadly although moral perfection is not highly regarded in our society, we still live in a perfectionist culture, but it’s more about our lives, our looks and our homes. The photoshopping and airbrushing of the pictures and images all around us can make us look for perfection in so many things, from our looks to our homes, our friendships and our church. We demand zero defects in so many areas of life, and we can look for perfection in ourselves and others with whom we live and work. Perfectionism is in every area of life, but we mustn’t project that onto our God.
In the Bible there are several Greek words for our English word ‘perfect’ and it’s important for us to know that. So for example in Matthew 5:48 where Jesus has been talking about loving our enemies, He says, ‘Be perfect therefore as our heavenly Father is perfect’. Impossible? Yes, perhaps, but the word telios actually means to be complete or matured. God wants us to be complete – like Him in our dealings with others.
The Greek words for ‘perfect’ all have a sense of completing, ending, bringing to maturity. Something that is perfected. They are very nuanced words not binary. They are not about right or wrong but about growing and maturing. Hence in 2 Timothy 3:17 in the AV it says ‘That the man of God may be perfect’ while the NIV has ‘So the man of God may be equipped for every good work’.
Our God is not a perfectionist but He is ‘perfecting’ us. He is working to matures us. So let us today thank God that He is on our side. He is not assessing us for how perfectly we live, but is with us helping us to grow in our walk with Him. Let us also thank Him for each other, allowing Him to work in us that same graciousness with each other. Let there be no ‘perfectionism’ amongst us all, only ‘compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience’, Colossians 3:12, as we learn to treat each other as the Lord treats us.