Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Redefining What It Means to Be Perfect

Suggested Reading: Matthew 19:16-30

There is a scene toward the end of the football movie, Remember the Titans. Against all odds the newly integrated team has made it to the state championship but is losing as they go into the locker room at half-time. The coaches encourage the kids, telling them that "win or lose" they are proud of them. One of the players speaks up and says that "win or lose" isn't good enough. He adds, "Coach, you demanded perfection. Now I'm not saying I'm perfect, none of us are. But we have won every game we have played and, so far, this team is perfect, and I'd like to keep it that way" (rough paraphrase). That player's speech kicks the coaches and team back into high gear and, as you would probably guess, even if you haven't seen the movie, they go back out and win the state championship.

There is a passage in Matthew 19, where Jesus talks about what it means to be perfect. A young man with great wealth has come to him, asking him what it takes to have eternal life. Jesus has questioned him about his life and the young man claims he has followed all the Old Testament's laws since he was a boy. Jesus responds, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Matthew 19: 21, HCSB).  Jesus explained, perfection wasn't about checking off a list of do's and don'ts. Perfection happens when we can get rid of everything that distracts us or that holds power over us so that we can follow Christ.

Too often, we view our walk with Christ in terms of which rules we need to follow so that we can get every little detail of our lives right. But perfection isn't about how many things we get right, it is about who holds our allegiance. This young man who had approached Jesus could follow rules, as long as he wasn't asked to take his wealth out of the number one priority slot. When Jesus asked him to do so, he went away sad because he had great wealth. But some of us have other priorities that prevent us from following Christ whole-heartedly. For some of us, having a nice home gets in the way. For others, our families are the most important thing. Some of us are most concerned with our reputations and how we appear to other people. Some of us are focused on being comfortable, and we will do whatever we can do, so long as we get the little perks we feel we deserve.

Following Christ is not something we can do half-heartedly. Jesus said, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters -- yes, and even his own life -- he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26-27, HCSB).  We cannot follow Christ only as long as others still view us in a positive light. We cannot make Christ our number one priority just so long as family time isn't infringed upon. Following Christ is an all or nothing proposition, one in which the only things that count are whether we have given him everything and whether our love for him is so great that our love for anything or anyone else seems like hate in comparison.

What is holding you back from following Christ the way you know you should? What is it that you are afraid of giving up or missing out on? Until you let it go and become wholly devoted to Christ, the kind of perfection Jesus demanded is out of reach. 

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