Matthew 5:43–48, 2 Corinthians 12:1–10
Perfection. There are many well meaning people that say perfection is the enemy of progress, profit, completion, excellence, or that perfection is the disease of a nation or a disguise of insecurity. Generally, however, it is not perfection that is the issue but perfectionism. This is where all the energy to accomplish something is put into making sure that it is perfect. Sorry, we’re human. Perfectionism needs to die. Perfection, on the other hand, needs to be lifted up.
When Jesus talks about being perfect like the our Heavenly Father is perfect, it is the goal, in the same way that it is the goal to be perfect parent. It is the goal, not that we will ever achieve it on this side of life. There is the reality that you cannot hit what you are not aiming at, and balancing that against being too overwhelmed at not hitting the mark.
Perfectionism, a trap that many people (Christian and not) fall into. Perfectionism is a performance evaluation, and often not a very good one. Perfectionism can also be the trap (or escape) keeping you from even trying in the first place (i.e., “It won’t be perfect, so why try.”).
In the context of Jesus’ words, that perfection is lived out in love.
Paul’s understanding of perfect seems to be slightly different, and it is. Perfection (God’s power being made perfect in weakness) has more the meaning of being fully expressed. How is God’s power being fully expressed in God’s weakness? Paul’ humbling due to the thorn. What the thorn actually is doesn’t really matter. The thorn forces Paul to be a lot more humble in his behavior (according to him). He brags about someone else and not himself.
This is an aspect of Jesus’ “be perfect” in that Paul is loving (by building up) this other person, and also loving in his humble yet firm approach with the Corinthians. There isn’t a dictatorial admonishment here, but the loving reproach of a father to his children. Did Paul “perfectly” live out live, probably not. Did he strive to? Absolutely.
1) What is your “gut” response to Jesus’ call to be perfect? Why?
2) What is your “gut” response to God’s power being made perfect through Paul’s affliction? Why?
3) Do you see a difference between perfection and perfectionism? What are the similarities? Why do you think these two terms get confused?