The pressures of perfectionism. The pull to do everything right. To need to be in control. The desire to be applauded. All these things fall under the plague of perfectionism. We tire ourselves with the endless charade that we have it all together. All the masquerades has left us brittle and broken. This pressure from within to prove ourselves, leads us to a performance driven devotion. One that is determined by how much we give, not how much we have been given to us. The gospel message is : you are not perfect but Jesus is. That’s it, boiled down to a preschool understanding. But we still can’t grasp it. We want to earn our way, we want to show the world what we are made of and in the process we end up being made out of the same material as the world. We are swallowed up by the endless competition of callings. We strive to please and be pleased. We want nothing more than to matter. But somehow in the battle we loose the very thing we are after; purpose. The plague of perfectionism chokes out our purpose because it is focused on us-not on Christ.
“Perfectionists strain compulsively and unceasingly toward unobtainable goals, and measure their self-worth by productivity and accomplishment. Pressuring oneself to achieve unrealistic goals inevitably sets the person up for disappointment. Perfectionists tend to be harsh critics of themselves when they fail to meet their standards.”
That sounds a lot like legalism to me.
The people of the Old Testament were under the Mosaic Law (the Law that was given to Moses), and to see that the people carried out the covenant with the Lord, God established what is known as the Levitical Priesthood. This priesthood was made up of men, descended from the tribe of Levi, to carry out the sacrificial system. Because the penalty for sin is ALWAYS life. Every time the people of God personally sinned they would have to go before the Priest and have their sin atoned for. The tabernacle was set up in the middle of the Israelite camp, with the animals all around. The atmosphere was thick, the sound of their need for sacrifice was forever before them. It was something they could not escape from. For all throughout the camp the ruckus of livestock echoed the need for deliverance. There were 5 different types of sacrifices: the peace offering, sin offering, trespass offering, burnt offering, and meal offering. Not to mention the Day of Atonement, where the High Priest would go into the Holy of Holies and ask for the atonement of the nation as a whole. Their lives were a constant reminder that they did not measure up. The bar of perfectionism was set but it could not be met. That is why the writer of Hebrews says “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood-why was there a need for another priest to come?” (Hebrews 7:11) It’s a rhetorical question with the answer being obvious; because man’s plastic perfection cannot earn right standing before God. The great news for us is that another Priest did come; Jesus. And because He was perfect, the plague of perfection is cured. You see the pressure to be perfect leads us to a performance driven devotion, one where we serve only to receive. But since Jesus’s priesthood is permanent (Hebrews 7:24), that means that His perfection is as well. We can be free from the pressure to be perfect because Jesus’s perfection covers us. This war within us is legit. It is cruel and bloody at times. But the only way to win is by the Spirit. Paul finishes out his testimony by saying in Romans 8, “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the Law of the Spirit who gives life, has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it weakened the flesh, God did by sending His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law may be fully met in us, who do not live according to flesh but according to the Spirit.” Jesus came as our sin offering to give us permanent standing but also to take the pressure off of us. It is no longer up to you, what a relief. And since the plague of perfection has been cured, we are free to let our hearts soar and to let our minds grow.
Whose perfection are you counting on? Your’s or Christ’s? Are you dependent on your acts or His act on the cross? We know what we should answer. But Bible study is not about knowing the right things, it’s about life change. If we ever want to separate the two-we are in a dangerous place.
You were not made to be perfect, but to be complete—there’s a stark difference. One is grounded in our works, while the other is founded upon Christ.
Nothing depletes our souls like the requirement perfectionism brings, because we are trying to give something we simply do not have. Deep down we know this, we know we aren’t perfect. We know we can’t measure up-that’s what makes us mad. We have the desire deep within to be all things to all people. That’s what it boils down to.
“ For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” Colossians 1:16-17
Jesus’s perfection is what holds the world together. The earth is currently sustaining the perfect orbit, not by chance, but by the perfect hand that holds it. But it goes deeper than the cosmos, His perfection is currently sustaining our small world as well. Our pursuit of perfectionism is noting more than feeble human attempts to keep all the pieces of our lives like we think they should be; under control. But what happens when we realize we never had control in the first place? We panic. The pursuit of perfectionism always leads to panic-and that will always make us feel like we are falling to pieces. But when we pursue the perfect Priest, Jesus, than that always leads to peace. Perfectionism says we must be all things to all people. While Colossians 1:16-17, tells us that it is not our responsibility, it’s Christ’s. Only Christ has the capability to be all things to all people, in order to find peace we must step down and lift Him up
Perfection is not the absence of a mess, but the presence of Jesus.