Genesis 20:2 | Romans 4:2-3 | Hebrews 11:17a,20-22,27
Certainly you are keenly aware of the fact that you are not perfect. And after hearing what Mariah and Mia had to say, you have learned that perfection is a great aim–unattainable as it is. Aim for perfection, and learn from your mistakes!
Acknowledging your imperfections makes you more trustworthy. Ask yourself: Would you believe someone if they told you they had a friend who literally never messed up? What if they said the same about themselves?
The Bible is very trustworthy in this way. The people it describes really lived, and you can see in the scripture their successes, failures, triumphs, and betrayals. God does not expect you to believe that Abraham–the Father of All Who Believe–was perfect.
Abraham introduced his wife, Sarah, by saying, “She is my sister.” So King Abimelech of Gerar sent for Sarah and had her brought to him at his palace.(Genesis 20:2 NLT)
Abraham explained that he was in a “godless place” (Genesis 20:11) and worried they would want his wife and kill him to get her. Wait…shouldn’t he have told the truth and trusted God to see him through?
If [Abraham’s] good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”(Romans 4:2-3 NLT)
It is not God’s way to make us acceptable by requiring perfect deeds. He wants us to believe him and take action–stumbling and imperfect action, even–based on that belief.
Abraham’s descendants were also far from perfect. Isaac clearly favored his son Esau over his twin brother Jacob, who ultimately tricked his father and swindled his brother out of his blessing and birthright. Jacob, in turn, favored his eleventh son Joseph, causing his older brothers to resent the boy so much that they sold him off to slave traders. And his descendent Moses murdered an Egyptian, then fled to the desert to start a new life as a shepherd.
Right down the line, God’s chosen people made big mistakes. Their accounts in God’s word do not minimize these; in fact, they are generally important elements in God’s story. But the mistakes are not why they are remembered.
It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him.(Hebrews 11:17a NLT)
It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau. It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff. It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.(Hebrews 11:20-22 NLT)
It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.(Hebrews 11:27 NLT)
It seems that God puts a lot more stock in faith than in a spotless record. With that in mind… Are you putting yourself under pressure to be perfect?
If so, why?
Questions for Group Discussion
- Why do you think Jesus says to be perfect (in Matthew 5:48) if it is not possible to do so? (If you have access to Bible commentary–online or otherwise–that will help answer this question.)
- What do you think about the fact that people’s mistakes are included in the Bible? What does it say about the people themselves? What does it say about the author of the scripture?
- Jesus is the only perfect person portrayed in all of the Bible. Considering the rest of scripture and its unflinching frankness, how credible is this?
- Have you ever heard the Bible referred to as if it were a fairy tale? How does that assessment hold, in light of its starkly honest style of storytelling? Why do you think such people have relegated the scripture to a work of fantasy?
Challenge: Practice Makes Perfect
How can you aim for perfection but laugh it off when you make mistakes? Maybe you just need some practice.
Here is your challenge…
For the next week, cultivate the habit of doing this whenever you make a mistake:
- Say a quick prayer to the effect of: “Lord, help me do what I need to.”
- Literally laugh at your mistake. (It is okay to fake the laugh.)
- It would be a good idea to pray throughout the week, asking God to shape your understanding of what perfection is and what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:48.
- If you gain insight into dealing with perfectionism, write it down somewhere and share it with someone you trust.