Why do Jesus followers think they have to be perfect 24/7?
In my experience, this incredible “pressure of perfection” leads to one of two outcomes:
1. Heightened anxiety and stress, or
2. Giving up on the faith because it’s too much
#2 is not an option for a Jesus follower, and #1 can’t be God’s will for our lives. So what are supposed to do?
What if we stopped pursuing being perfect and started pursuing the author of perfection?
I am still making this transition in my life. The need for this shift has come as a result of three observations:
Observation 1. My imperfections can show more of God’s character.
In the past, I’ve worried that if I’m not perfect, I’ll make God look bad. But the more I think about it, the more I believe the opposite is true. Consider these examples:
- When I stumble – people can see God’s grace and forgiveness
- When I’m angry with God – people can see God’s patience… and that God is big enough to handle my anger
- When I mourn – people see the comfort and the peace that passes understanding that only God can give (See Phil 4:7).
I don’t plan to stumble or get angry, but I’m not as frantic about being perfect because I know that even in my imperfection, or perhaps even because of my imperfection, people can see more of God.
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (2 Cor 12:9 NLT)
Observation 2: My persistence in pursuing God may be more valuable to others than my perfection.
If something is important, you don’t throw it away. You hang on to it at all costs.
And If you really want to see what’s important to people, don’t look at what they hold on to when times are easy. Instead, watch what they fight for. Watch for what they refuse to let go of despite being battered and beaten.
Have you ever seen people who simply will not give up on God, even when they’ve stumbled or face suffering? When I see that, I am reminded of how valuable God is. And I’m encouraged to hang on just as tightly to my own faith in God.
None of that comes from being perfect.
Observation 3: My weakness can make being a Jesus follower more reachable.
I had a friend who wrestled in college. He and I kept similar schedules at the gym. He asked at one point if I wanted to be workout partners. I was excited! But after about two weeks, I began to beg out of workouts. Why?
Because I didn’t want to be the guy that went next on the weight machine! I was always reducing the weight by over half of what he used. And rather than encourage me (which was his intention), I became even more discouraged.
Our Christian walk is not much different. If you’re so far out ahead of others, (i.e., “perfect”) people won’t be able to relate to you. And rather than encourage, you might actually discourage them in their walk.
I’m not saying we should purposefully stumble and sin. I’m simply saying that if we do (as humans occasionally do), we shouldn’t be afraid that God will be seen as less.
In fact, I think people will see:
– More of God’s character
– More of God’s worth, and
– God will be more reachable for others
So, I have decided to stop pursuing perfection, and start pursuing the author of perfection.
Who’s with me?
“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12 NRSV)
Where have you seen God’s grace in human weakness? How has the pressure of perfection affected your life? Share your experiences via comments!