This past Sunday, I preached one of the harder messages I’ve preached in a while. It was hard because I talked honestly and openly about an idol that continues to dominate me and blind me…perfection.
Perfection is elusive. In fact, it’s impossible. It’s like running for a finish line that doesn’t exist. It’s exhausting. It’s destructive. It’s deadly.
I know, because it’s been killing me. Well, maybe not literally “killing me,” but it has taken an extreme toll on my health. It was warped my perspective. It has stolen my joy. It has filled me with anxiety. It has robbed me of peace. It has done incredible damage in my life.
For example, when I walk out after church on Sunday, I could have 100 people tell me that the service was amazing…but I will find the flaw. Guaranteed. I won’t leave focused on the incredible things that God did in that service. I will walk out focused on what went wrong.
The truth is we’ve never had a perfect service at Connect. And we never will. But it doesn’t stop my drive for perfection.
And the same thing goes for anything else in my life. It will never be perfect. But that hasn’t quelled my drive for perfection.
I hate what perfectionism has done to me. I am too hard on my kids because of my perfectionism. I expect too much out of the people around me because of my perfectionism. Nothing is ever good enough because of my perfectionism.
It’s unhealthy. It’s destructive. It’s damning. And it’s got to stop.
On Sunday, I shared a truth that has been ringing in my head ever since. “Perfection isn’t the requirement. Jesus is the requirement.”
But if you were open your Bible, you might see these words. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
You know who said those words? Jesus Himself. Seems to contradict everything I just said, doesn’t it?
God’s demand has always been holiness, righteousness, absolute perfection. But no one except Jesus has ever lived up to that demand. Our only hope is that, in His grace, God gives us another way.
As Tullian Tchividjian wrote:
God’s demand: “Be perfect.”
God’s diagnosis: “No one is perfect.”
God’s deliverance: “Jesus is our perfection.”
Jesus told us to be perfect, knowing that we would never be able to do it. But He had to show us the impossible standard so we could fully grasp what His death and resurrection meant.
Like Paul said in Galatians 2:21, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
If we could do it on our own, if we could live in perfection, then Jesus’ death is meaningless. He really did die for nothing.
That’s why Jesus told us to be perfect. To show us just how much we actually need Him. To show us exactly why He had to die for us.
So my futile attempts at perfection are really just denials of Jesus’ all-sufficiency. If I think I have to be perfect, then I’m really acting as if Jesus really isn’t enough for me.
I’m describing my own life, but there’s a good chance I’m describing yours as well. That’s why I’m inviting you to join me in embracing the less-than-perfect. To be ok when things aren’t absolutely flawless. To stop running after a finish line that doesn’t exist. To actually give yourself permission to take a breath. To pause. To rest. And to realize that perfection isn’t the requirement. Jesus is the requirement.
Mike Edmisten is Senior Pastor at Connect Christian Church.