Must’ve been around 30 years ago I was healed by a phrase in a sermon! The text was the one about being “perfect” as the Father is “perfect.” I was a young mother and wife struggling to “get it right.”
The idea of doing things right drove my decisions and activities, doing them right the first time so you don’t have to do them again, doing things in a certain, particular way. And every night sinking exhausted, frustrated and imperfect into my cycle of fitful failure.
That day the preacher changed my life. When Jesus invites us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” [Mt 5:48] he is not talking about flawless, pristine, impeccable. Jesus is calling us to be ripe, complete, ready for harvest, mature in being and preparation. “Think of an apple, or a peach. Something that is fully realized and ready to be what it was designed to be,” said the preacher. “I can do that,” I thought.
All those years I had worked to eliminate the flaws, and there are so many flaws in my life. Now someone reminds me that Jesus takes the flaws off the table. He moves through his final days experiencing the worst of human sin and loves us through it all. We are His, and He is God’s, and we are welcome whole and Holy.
Jesus calls us to be and become fully ourselves, completely what God intends, entirely caught up in our role as citizens of the Heavenly Realm. Whether individuals or communities, those of us who follow the way are to reveal, reflect and respond out of the sure and certain knowledge that our God knows our shortcomings and loves us wholly, completely. We are invited to behave as if the reign of God breaks in on a daily basis. We are expected to give more than required, pray for the opposition and love those who seem like our worst nightmare.
In this year of continuous warfare, legislative elections and Olympic competition we give up scorekeeping and practice wild applause. We cheer for the underdog and collect startover belongings for the family in the fire. We collect socks for school children who have none clean and dry at home. And we are healed from the dis-ease of focus-on-the-flaws. As we face, and know and learn to love the things we used to fear, we break through to the kingdom of the whole and Holy. Perfect in the heart of our God.