Summary: In so much of life we are searching for perfection.
Growing up in California, I used to hear about all the surfing that was going on. In surfing there always seems to be this search for the elusive perfect wave. The perfect wave has the right amount of curl, a perfect tube, just at the right height for the surfer. The wave isn’t too fast so that you can’t do tricks, but makes the surfer look good. The reef below is formed so that the wave breaks over it, but the reef is far enough down that if you wipe out you don’t get slammed into the coral. People I know have traveled to Fiji, Mexico, Hawaii, Australia, all searching for the perfect wave. It’s out there somewhere, that perfect wave, but no one has found it yet. In so much of life we are searching for perfection. I’m looking for the perfect golf swing, the perfect softball swing. Some people pay thousands of dollars trying to learn the perfect golf swing, and the ability to do it every time the ball is teed up and ready to fly 280 yards down the fairway.
Perfection is elusive I’ve discovered. We admire folks who we think run the perfect household, only to find out that perfection is elusive for them too. The perfect child doesn’t exist, and neither does the perfect parent. But there is that goal to achieve perfection in being the perfect daughter, the perfect son, the perfect parent. As a side note, I think perfection in being a brother or sister isn’t really a consideration, at least for me.
Perfection is elusive in most situations because it is unmeasureable. The right answer in math is perfect, it is easy to recognize. The right answer in handling a difficult situation with one’s neighbor is harder to recognize. The perfect solution, the perfect response, the perfect environment, all those are elusive. The perfect life, now that’s an even more elusive, harder to recognize place. Christians are to be perfect like Christ was perfect, but when I look at my life, I know at least I fall far short of perfection. I hate to dispel any illusions you might have of me, but that is completely true. It is frustrating, but true nonetheless. The Apostle Paul was dealing with this frustration as well, of wanting to be perfect, but knowing he really wasn’t.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
You remember from last time we were in the verses just prior to this, where Paul was talking about making Christ the first and total goal of life. Paul was expressing his deep desire to know more and more of Christ, and Him crucified. Paul was wanting to know Christ so deeply, so completely that Christ’s will would be Paul’s will. Paul wanted to be perfect in order to be like Jesus, in order to please His Lord, and not disappoint Him.
And then in this very personal letter that Paul wrote to the Philippians, the church he planted, and knew so well, Paul says, “I’m not there either.” Philippians is the letter of joy, Paul, the converted Jewish Pharisees and Christian persecutor, wrote to the church at Philippi. Because Paul knew this people, and considered them his equal in the mission and message of the gospel, he is more free to be real with them. This church doesn’t have the theological struggles of other, different churches Paul wrote to. So he is allowed to be himself a little more. He is allowed to be real, as it were, with the people he is writing to. We are allowed to see a side of Paul that makes him more human, more vulnerable, more real. What a gift. What a gift that we are allowed to be real in the church with our problems and struggles. The church is the place to say, “I’m struggling; I’m lonely; I’m hurt, I’m scared.” This ought not to be a place where everyone puts on a fake smile, but in this place, in this sanctuary we are allowed to be real with God, and real with each other. Paul puts it like this: