I have to admit it: I am a recovering perfectionist. My family might question the "recovering" aspect but they would definitely agree with by being a perfectionist! Since childhood I have desired to do things perfectly and be perfect. Since childhood, this desire has gotten me into trouble.
I have often reflected on the passage "… you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt. 5:48). Striving to be perfect seemed to be part of the natural call and responsibility of being a good Christian. Yet, I have found it a never-ending struggle that leaves me more wearied than triumphant.
As I have aged, I have indeed grown tired of trying to be perfect. A few years ago I had an experience of conversion when I realized that God does not require me to be perfect in the way that I had thought. As a human being, I cannot be perfect in the strict sense of the word; I cannot do everything right. I cannot be God.
Perfection for God is being in perfect harmony with God's true nature, which is divine. Divine nature is unlimited, immortal, not tied to physical realities, without sin, and unconditionally loving.
Perfection for a person is being in perfect harmony with his/her true nature, which is human. Human nature is limited, mortal, bounded by physical realities, sinful, and limited in loving. Human perfection cannot be divine perfection. The sense of this isn't immediate.
I believe that for me to be perfect as God is perfect means to be in perfect harmony with my true nature, as God exists in perfect harmony with God's nature. I now like to define perfection as being in complete harmony with one's true nature.
I think our human nature evolves from our true identity of being creatures, sinners, and beloved ones of God. When we can accept our creature-hood, sinfulness, and that we are beloved of God, the I think we have made inroads into being "perfect." We can live in the truth of the nature in which God created us.
Humans who strive to become "perfect" by not accepting their limitations or being at peace with their mortality and sinfulness dance with idolatry. They are striving to become God and are denying their true identity and nature.
God could have made human beings "perfect" in the conventional sense of the word. Who needs failings and imperfections? But, it is through the very nature of our humanness that we are dependent on God. We are the creatures and not the Creator. God must truly have intended for us to be human, and not just slipped up on forgotten to make us "perfect."
Jesus was the human being whom best accepted the fullness of his humanity and all the giftedness and limitations that came with it. Often we struggle to accept ourselves as we really are, although God loves us just as we are. God does not wait until we reach a certain point of perfection before loving us. Nor will God love us more once we improve.
Our call to be humanly perfect means we are to accept ourselves as being loved by God just as we presently are; to accept ourselves as being limited and mortal creatures (not Creator) full of weaknesses but also strengths and gifts, to accept ourselves as being sinners who are in need of God's loving mercy – as being forgiven sinners.
God made us perfectly human and it is good.
SMT Rozga 10/3/00