Matthew 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Standards are important. Without standards, it’s very hard to evaluate anything. The flip side of that is that if our standards are skewed we are in deep trouble, because we lose sight of good and bad and even right and wrong. Much of the Sermon on the Mount is dealing with mistaken standards. We tend to make people our standards, but as Paul said, “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12) With this verse, Jesus put the ultimate end to that. When God is our standard, there is no room for pride! Every honest believer knows they are a work in progress, as Paul himself famously declared, (Philippians 3:12-14) but we aren’t to be neurotic about it. As again Paul said, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4) We aren’t to keep picking at ourselves, but we aren’t to be stagnant either. As so many people have realized, life is very much a journey, and we need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s not that nothing is ever good enough; that sort of perfectionism is a curse. However, as satisfactory as one thing might be, we always have other areas in which to improve. And, for that matter, we all have a tendency to backslide, too. Just because we did something right one time doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll do it right the next time. We are to recognize our total dependence on God, but not in a negative way. As again Paul said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) It’s for sure we can’t meet God’s standard in our own strength and wisdom, but He will enable us to do everything He calls us to do.
I probably struggle with this as much as the next guy. I have a strong perfectionist streak, but at the same time I have a tendency to throw it all in and say, “What the hey.” Neither is good or even healthy. With numbers of things (such as cleaning my study) I tend to give up before I start, but with some other things I keep tweaking them endlessly, never satisfied. That’s one of many reasons the Lord told me explicitly to rest, relax, and rejoice. At the same time that I recognize that He is the standard, so I will never reach it in this life, I need to remember that “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13) And, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) Paul dealt with this issue a lot in writing to the Philippians! A big issue for me has been in demanding perfection of others, and that is a big mistake. I need to praise effort and improvement, even while reminding them that, as Jesus said, God is our standard, so we’re all in this together.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for your grace toward me! Help me be an unpolluted channel of that grace toward those around me, so that we may all move closer and closer to You, for Your pleasure and glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!