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For years, the media has sold us an image of perfection. We idolize celebrities and models in movies, TV shows, and print ads. We envy their photo-shopped looks and overflowing bank accounts, all the while feeling totally inadequate in comparison. In response to this, the following advice has become commonplace: “Seek progress, not perfection.” Apparently, Hollywood can be perfect, but we common folk should settle for progress.
However, lately I’ve been hearing a new message: “You’re perfect just the way you are.” So, now it doesn’t matter what we say or do; we just have to wake up in the morning to be perfect. And since everyone is perfect, no one has to feel pressured to seek progress.
Each of these messages can be used to justify our actions (or lack thereof). So, what’s the truth? Do we seek perfection, progress, or neither? As Christians, we should look to the Bible for our answer.
One of the grandest statements in Scripture is found in Matthew 5. After admonishing the disciples to love their enemies, Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NAS).
If we can’t even compare to celebrities, how can we be perfect as God is perfect? How should we interpret this today?
First, note that Jesus was NOT talking about heaven. He simply said the disciples would be perfect if they loved and obeyed God and loved their fellow man. As Jesus’ disciples today, this applies to us, too.
Second, the word “perfect” here is derived from the Greek word teleios, meaning “complete” or “having reached its end.” This does NOT mean that we’ll gain special powers, that we’ll stop making mistakes, or that we’ll never need to ask for forgiveness again. I will NOT become Super Woman, and you will NOT become Anne Hathaway.
However, this Scripture DOES mean that we’ll become complete, mature versions of ourselves—the epitome of what God intended us to be when He created us. I’ll be the perfect me, and you’ll be the perfect you.
I’ve heard parents say they wish their children could remain babies forever, but they don’t really mean that. Instead, they want what is best for their children: for them to grow and mature until they realize their full potential as adults. As our Heavenly Father, God wants the same thing for us!
Paul explained that we must “grow up in all aspects into Him” (Ephesians 4:15 NAS). He then said that we should use our talents and the roles God gives us within the Church Body “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NAS, emphasis mine).
The word “mature” here is the same word teleios meaning, “perfect, complete, having reached its end.” In other words, we should strive toward righteousness, obedience, and unity, growing in the knowledge of the Lord until the whole Church Body is where it should be.
This act of maturing, of perfecting, is not a one-time activity! It is not relegated to the point of salvation, baptism, or confirmation. Instead, it covers a lifelong pursuit of God and His holiness in our lives.
And God expects us to make progress.
Progress in the Pursuit of Perfection
God is not concerned with the world’s definition of perfection, and neither should we. The media’s messages might tickle the ears, but they are empty of real truth. God’s message is much more meaningful and valuable! His Word says that we should seek Him first, and that we should strive to be what He made us to be so we can do what He’s called us to do.
In other words, we should make progress in the pursuit of God’s perfection.
If this is a new concept for you, I encourage you to study these verses and meditate on their meaning. If you feel convicted to make progress in your spiritual life, ask the Lord what steps you should take. Then, stand in faith that, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6b NAS).
I’d love to know your thoughts on this post! Have you struggled with the concept of perfection? Is the idea of progressing in your journey a new one for you? Please leave a comment or send me a private message. Thanks for reading BigSisterKnows!
Excellent! I have heard and read from those who misinterpret this idea of perfection. Thank you for expounding upon its original meaning!
Thanks, Matthew! It’s not a “milk and toast” kind of topic today, but the early followers of Jesus seemed to grasp this concept so well. May we all learn to seek the deeper things of God and “eat meat.” God bless you today!
Great explanations! Thank you!
Thank you! Hope it blessed you. 🙂