Recently a number of blogs (here and here) have looked at the ideal of perfection and the trouble it causes. Those blogs made me ask myself where do we get our ideas of what perfection is?
Consider the scripture Matthew 5:48 which tells us to be perfect. What is perfect? Whose idea of perfect should we follow? I submit that we can look at the ten commandments, the simple straight forward commandments, to get a good idea of what perfect is in God‘s eyes.
Are you killing people? Are you messing with your neighbor’s spouse? Do you steal or lie? Do you respect you parents? Do you put God first?
There is nothing in the scriptures that tell you to have a clean kitchen, to bake you own wheat bread, to make center pieces for church lessons, or to wear a white shirt. I think our ideas about perfection come from two sources: The consumer driven world we live in. The world of TV shows and intense consumer marketing. And a church that once, a century ago, that was near financial bankruptcy but now has all the money it needs. That money pays for buildings, books, manuals and travel. That purse and the scrips it pays for create a environment where more and more content heads our way to show members just how perfect they should be. But that content may not be helpful. In fact, it may be a distraction.
Pause for a moment an ask yourself, “Do I need all the material items of my culture to be perfect?” Things like granite counter tops, smart phones, another pair of new shoes, and four wheelers. The answer is no. Now, ask yourself, Do I need a church building and manuals to be perfect according to the scriptures?” Once again the answer is no. Jesus didn’t hand a manual to the woman by the well. He didn’t gather the twelve to a last supper in the cultural hall. He let the world take care of the world and he lead by the spirit.
We are a people who are blessed with abundance. An abundance of goods and an abundance of expectations and rules. I admit I enjoy the abundance of goods and I chafe are the abundance of rules. But, like a child who has been given so may birthday gifts, we try to carry them all around with us. We carry the social expectations of for both materials goods, behavior appropriate to our status, and a tightening number of pseudo-religious rules on dress, conduct, and lets face it, politics.
I suspect that bit by bit we have burdened ourselves with so many cultural ideals (scripts) of perfection that we can do nothing but fail. Sadly, I don’t think God really cares about most of the things we worry about. May I suggest we take a look at the many things we have been told to worry about beyond the commandments and that we evaluate each of them. Is this something God really cares about? (Does God worry if I wear flip flops, does he want me to conform to Republican politics, should I clean my bathroom more than once a week) Think about it. Pray about it. Is it something that effects my purse or my soul? Is it something God asked me to do or am I following the script some person wrote to fill their own need? When we've looked at the things we worry about, we can take the things we don’t need and throw them out. Each person will find a different list that fits their life. Each person will add more or discard other items as they progress (for all I know you can't enjoy church if your bathroom isn't clean, so you keep that on your list if you need it).
In the end I think we will find that the only way to hold to the iron rod is if we unload our burdens so we can keep one had free to hang on. And the only way we will be able to walk through the straight and narrow gate is if we unload the extra burdens that block our ability to more forward. In fact, if we unload enough of our own self-imposed burdens we might find we have a hand free to help someone else.