You Are Perfect, Really
Though Christ tells us to “be perfect” (Matthew 5:48), we tend to think of perfection as an impossible, unrealistic standard. “Nobody’s perfect.” “She thinks she’s so perfect.” Perfect is ‘done’, ‘finished’, ‘no more work needed’, ‘as good as can be’.
This causes confusion in our souls. Satan twists Christ’s own words within us until we aren’t sure whether we should try harder to be more perfect, or try harder to let go of perfectionism! This wrestling can wear us out. Giving-up-on-ever-knowing is barely recognizable as despair, but it is. In fact, it is just to plant little seeds like this that the evil one lures us into such confusion. Despair leads to sin. Don’t go there!
To get you out of this tangle, and others like it, as quickly as possible, I offer three principles.
- Going round and round? STOP! Be strong, and take heart, and wait on the Lord (Psalm 27:14).
- Struggling with confusion? This is Satan’s work, not God’s. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).
- Facing an impossible choice between two goods, or two truths? Look up. Such problems aren’t able to be reconciled on the level where they seem opposed. My ways are not your ways, they are higher (Isaiah 55:9).
So, you’d be still long enough to realize there’s a diabolic twist here somewhere. Then, in prayer, God would help you to look back up at the first premises, definitions, and assumptions that you carried into the struggle – exposing them to the light of truth.
Here you’ll find that you’ve accepted a definition of perfect that applies to man-made things, and there’s the key to resolving this tension. Things made by God are perfect at every stage of their being. Have you ever looked at a baby and thought him an imperfect adult? A seed is absolutely perfect, but has more ‘becoming’ to do. The Church, for all its imperfections, is still the perfect vehicle for the realization of Christ into the world.
I’ve noticed that this kind of twist in our thinking often involves the difference between ‘really’ and ‘fully’. Let’s look at that. Satan always uses something true to make a case against us, like a prosecuting attorney uses evidence. If it weren’t true, it would have no power to get us started on our case for the defense! If you stub your toe and have a ‘less than perfect’ reaction, the obvious verdict is, “GUILTY! Of not really being good, perfect, holy.” Now, in truth, this moment shows that you are not fully perfect. You already are perfect, in the sense that the real, true, Presence of Christ is really and truly in you now. He is never imperfect, to any degree. So, to possess His life within you is to possess perfection.
To “grow up in all things unto Christ” (Ephesians 4:15) is to possess Him and correspond to Him more and more fully. We’re told, “Be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Christ has accepted a perfection that will not be fully realized until the end of time. Just as Christ is, in a sense, even now growing into the fullness of His own perfection – His Body, the Church, is more and more wholly revealing Him and corresponding to Him every day – so are you growing into the full and whole perfection that is already really, truly present in you!
Satan likes to flatten three-dimensional reality so that you can’t see ‘higher’. Time is a reality with three dimensions: Christ has come, is coming, and one day will finally have come. His work has been accomplished, is being accomplished, and someday will be wholly complete (perfected). You are perfect, are being perfected, and one day will have become perfect. Meanwhile, remember it is God himself who works in you to perfect the work He began in you. (cf Philippians 2:13, 1:6)
Relax, and ask Him to clarify anything you need to bring to confession, change, or act on in some other way. If nothing comes to mind, let it go. It is not presumption to trust in His perfection, and to believe He will move you toward your perfection in His own way.
Art: Lucifer, the fallen angel (Colorized), Gustave Doré (1832-1883), 1866, PD-worldwide; The Confession, Giuseppe Molteni, 1838, CC-SA; both Wikimedia Commons.