Summary: Exploring the principles that make us more Christlike.
What Does It Mean To Be Perfect?
(There was a young boy who had been writing God a note on how good he had been throughout the past year. He began by writing, “Dear God, I have been good for six months now and I think I deserve a good gift for Christmas.” Upon thinking about it he then scribbled out six months and replaced it with three months. Looking at the paper in frustration, after thinking about it some more, he scribbled out three months and changed it to two weeks. Upon further thought, he scribbled out two weeks. Staring blankly at the paper, he got an idea. He jumped up from where he had been writing the message and went to the family’s Nativity scene and grabbed the Virgin Mary. After sitting back down to write the message, its contents had now changed entirely. He wrote, “Dear God, if you ever want to see your mother again you’ll give me what I want.”)
Sometimes we can become a little like the young child in the illustration when it comes to our relationship with God. We can get a little selfish in our prayers and absorbed in our own little world. We sometimes say to God, “If you do this I’ll pray more…give more…stop my bad habits.” We barter with God as if by doing something in exchange we can earn a special treat from Him. God gifts are not earned; otherwise they would cease to be gifts. Yet we seem to think God operates on the same level we do. The scripture states that “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
We do not need to, nor should we ever, barter for things with God. He knows what we need and he supplies them “according to His riches in glory.” The key point, though, that God demands from us as His children is that we “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and THEN all these things shall be added to us.” Matthew 6:33 We need to first get our eyes off of seeking our kingdom and humble ourselves to understand what His kingdom needs and requires from us. St. Benedict of Nursia stated, “We descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility.”
The first thing His kingdom requires from us is perfection in our attitudes towards God and our fellow man. This is a hard saying but I want to build upon the foundation of perfection in the sermon and then progress deeper into this truth. I want to say first and foremost, WE WILL NEVER ACHIEVE PERFECTION IN THIS BODY. That being said, how do you become perfect if you can never become perfect? Ultimately it boils down to the choices we make in our lives. We choose to be holy, we choose to be perfect, and when we fail, we must repent and change our lives and let God’s grace restore us to that place of perfection in Christ.
The Venerable Bede once said, “No one is suddenly made perfect.” This is a truth that is seldom explored in some churches. In some churches the current thought is that once you accept Christ, you immediately get rid of old habits, poor choices and bad lifestyles, and those who don’t meet the standards of the lifelong church-goer are shunned and kept outside the “saved” churchmen. These standards can be anything from clothing to appearance to “churchy” words.
We all start from scratch in salvation and through God’s grace we are propelled forward into perfection and righteousness through following God’s Word. So what choices should we make in our walk of salvation? I have found a quote that I think nails it on the head. St. Frances De Sales once said, “We can never attain to perfection while we have an affection for any imperfection.” In other words, we need to keep our thoughts and affections on the things of God and not on the things of this world if we can even hope to attain perfection in our lives. It is a goal that we all should be struggling towards. We can progress on our journey to perfection but we will only reach the destination once we are in the presence of Christ.
Perfection also tends to boil down to one thing, Love. Love perfects our faith if we choose to show our love to each other and to God. If we are constantly coming down on each other for this or that, how can we show love while we also show contempt? The two are mutually exclusive. There are many things that people do that I do not agree with, but I try to love them regardless of the sins they commit in the hopes of restoring them to right relationship with God. Yet, if all I do is condemn them, ridicule them, and push them aside, how will I ever show the love that Christ commands me to show so that they may see Christ within me? This does not include excusing sin, for a true Christian can never allow a poison to be introduced to God’s pure bread. It does, however, include gently persuading them to rectify their behavior and choices. I am reminded of Galatians 2:20 which states, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” He has given us grace to help us into perfection, but we must amend our lives or we will never achieve it in this life or the next, for Christ proclaims that it is possible for your name to be blotted out of the Book of Life.