Your culture (no matter what culture you live in) is constantly telling you that you must be perfect. Perfect hair, perfect weight, perfect popularity…. And as homeschoolers you’ve probably got another set of expectations from your parents or friends. Perfect test scores, perfect spelling bees, perfect college entrance exams…. Did you know that Jesus is telling us to be perfect too?
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
But this is a different kind of perfection: real perfection. The world will be happy if you only look perfect on the surface, and they don’t care what kind of hell you have to go through to get there. Jesus commands us to be perfect all the way through. As C.S. Lewis put it:
When He said , "Be perfect," He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder — in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I want to be "an ordinary, decent egg." There are some things I don't think Jesus can iron out of me — if I'm honest I'd say that there are things that I don't want Him to iron out — but that's not what He has offered me. As Olivia posted on Wednesday, "God created for us a new man in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:24). A new man. A new perfect man. Not kind-of-perfect, not almost-there.
So how is this supposed to work? We're humans, right? We're flawed, that's in our nature. We can follow a lot of rules and do a pretty good job if given enough time, but perfection is asking a lot. Not only do we not stand much of a chance of ever reaching perfection, but what about the past, what about those less-than-stellar things that we did last year, or last week? My perfectionist tendencies clench and snap under the strain of such high expectations.
But the whole point of what Jesus is saying is that we can't do it! He's not asking us to do the impossible, He's commanding us to be supernatural. It comes down to something that you probably heard in Sunday School, but may never have truly internalized and accepted as true: it’s about Jesus’ perfection, not ours. If we are relying on any part of ourselves to please the Lord, then we’re straying from the path of true righteousness and true beauty. You thought that pleasing your peers was hard? Try pleasing the God of the universe.
There is so much beauty in the way Jesus works on us! Lettie B. Cowman wrote, "We must not be fainthearted because we are consciously poor instruments. The main question is in the mastery of Him who uses the instruments." In 1 Corinthians Paul speaks of us having “treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." We are supposed to look like clay right now, but God is molding our jars.
If you’re trusting in your own goodness, your own humility, your own hard work, your own gentle spirit, your own generosity or anything else to make you pleasing to God or to iron out your inner ugliness, stop dead right now. We will never measure up by ourselves; dependence on our own goodness, rationality, etc. is like hanging onto a spider’s web to save ourselves from falling. There’s a perfectly sturdy rope within reach—it’s Jesus, and it costs nothing to grab on to it, nothing except laying yourself down as if in death.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?Romans 8:28-31
We are all eggs, and God is going to teach us how to fly. Don't get frustrated with your egg-iness. Maybe you don't look like a bird to yourself or to others, but that's how God sees you. A dear friend of mine told me just yesterday, "Satan keeps track of our sins, God keeps track of our potential." How wonderful to know that we might look like eggs, but in Christ we're nightingales. We're perfect, and it's none of our doing.
How are you like an egg right now? How are you learning to fly on Jesus' wings?
Egg, a photo by MinimalistPhotography101.com on Flickr.
The Potter's Hands, a photo by bingbing on Flickr.