Perfection?

It’s been said that perfection is the enemy of good enough. This makes the point that there is a danger in setting out on a project or challenge with overly high expectations and being unable to recognise or settle for the reasonable and probably satisfactory. Sometimes unnecessary effort and time is spent endlessly researching for the absolute top choice. If it is a piece of equipment or an investment or hobby there are so many publications to read, websites to study, reviews and ratings not to be missed, and then also friends to consult before making a decision. Even so any decision can still be fraught with doubt. The different advice received and examples provided rarely converge to a unanimous recommendation. This can be unsettling and so the choice remains elusive and feels unsatisfactory.

When this happens it is easy to understand why decisions get postponed and little, even nothing sometimes, is achieved. I had an architect colleague who typically at the start of a project didn’t settle on an overall concept and then develop his proposals to suit. Instead he would get bogged down in endless research of possible alternatives. Failing to achieve some overall scheme for a new workshop or sports hall or whatever the project, he would turn to the easier option of providing detailed and dimensioned diagrams of the regulation basketball court or the shower facilities. These were fine in themselves, but the flaw was that they had no place to go. There was still no layout for a building to house any of the activities. His search for the perfect building design which would be functional, affordable and look good never came to fruition. It seemed he was locked in a permanent state either looking back over his shoulder in case he’d missed something, or searching around the next corner in case a better alternative popped up. A final plan of action never came. That was useless and no client was ever impressed to not receive a decisive solution.

I wonder what comments we would have made if Jesus, when choosing his disciples, had asked us for our opinion. What about Matthew? a tax gatherer so we might have noted that he was willing to work for the occupying army - not loyal to his own people, not trustworthy. Peter? we might have suggested he was not well educated, too impetuous. Simon the Zealot? too political, and too violent. James and John? sons of thunder, too loud and too ambitious. And so we could go on through all twelve and dismiss them all as not perfect for the job. But Jesus didn’t. They weren’t perfect but they were good enough – good enough for Jesus.

Looking at Jesus’ parable of the talents as in Matthew 25 I’ve long had a sympathy for the man given the smallest responsibility. Was he just lazy or was it that under the pressure of responsibility he couldn’t decide how to make anything of his “talent”? Or being in fear of his rather demanding master, he concluded that it would be better to opt out rather than to try, and so prove his limitations and confirm himself a failure

Jesus was forthright about the standard required of his followers. The disciples must have been unnerved when he said to them in Matthew 5v48 – “Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect”. Oh dear, they knew they couldn’t match that. For us, we know we can’t either and never will be able to achieve perfection. But don’t forget that in the parable two servants were found to be “good and faithful” yet their achievements had not produced identical results. There was no fixed pass mark. Paul explains how God looked at Jesus and saw him to be perfectly righteous, and he looks at those who are in him and regards them as perfectly righteous. That is most remarkable. We would like to be perfect but we know we are not. Our inabilities, however do not stop God. Though he knows what we are like, such is his passion for his children he is merciful and gracious beyond measure. Jesus said that if we, though naturally flawed, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more does God know and give good gifts to his children.

But is this only true if we as his children have first hit the top flight and made ourselves, not just outstanding, but perfect? Well no, not according to Paul who tells us to remember that in Jesus the grace of God has appeared and offers salvation to all people as he told Titus in chapter 2v11. And he says that in Jesus we have the free gift to be regarded as perfect in God’s sight. Remember, this was the same apostle Paul who wrote that he should be regarded as the lowest, a poor performer and worse, and even bearing a track record for oppressing the fledgling early church with extreme violence – he described himself as a “wretched man”. However, despite all that he still found that he could be rescued, raised above all his imperfections. He says in Romans 7v24 “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

It’s the same God and the same Jesus now. That’s good enough and more for us.

PMcH
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