Let me just start by saying that the issue I’m about to bring up won’t be resolved by the time you reach the end of this post. It’s something I’ve wrestled with my entire reborn life. You may not be able to relate. You definitely won’t be wiser when you’re done reading. But maybe you’ll have some insight to share.
If you have even one perfectionist bone in your body, then I guarantee you also have self-worth issues. Why? Because you’re passionately compelled toward a goal that is unreachable. Missed goal = disappointment / guilt / self-blame / you fill in the blank. So what happens when, in a particular endeavor, a perfectionist falls short? Some wallow in their perceived failure. Some abandon the project. I become legalistic.
My walk with God has not been spared of this (let’s just call it what it is) LIE that I can be perfect. I keep thinking that if I attend more classes at church I can master sin in my life. If I just remove myself a little bit more from worldly things and people, I will be able to claim for myself Matthew 5:48 which commands me to be perfect as God is. All it would take is reading the Bible more, tithing more, praying more, more, more, more…
You may be thinking, oh, what a noble endeavor. And at a surface level, you’d be right. Christians are commanded to clothe ourselves in Jesus, and to think on things that are true and right and praiseworthy, and to do everything for God’s glory.
But my journey to be like Jesus has become poisoned. I’ve been at it so long there are days I can’t tell whether I’m trying to be perfect so I can glorify God or so I can satisfy my intense need to excel.
And that’s not all.
In my quest to impress God with my Christlikeness, I have set for myself tight restrictions regarding what radio stations I can listen to, what jokes I can laugh at, what TV shows and movies I can watch, and opposite to Christ’s actions when He walked the earth, what kinds of people I can hang out with. Yep, I’ve become a Pharisee.
It’s tricky because all those boundaries have the potential to be good things. But they cease to be good when they cause me to resent / judge / lose compassion for / avoid people who aren’t as anxious to honor God with their lives; or cause me to depend on myself rather than on Christ for righteousness; or cause me to become so arrogant in my faith I can neither love others nor glorify God.
Not so honorable, is it?
So here’s my question to you: How can Christians pursue Matthew 5:48 without incurring these detrimental side effects of perfectionism?