John Wesley believed that people could actually aspire to “perfection in love” in their lifetime. He believe…d that people could be pure in their hearts’ motive so that they could be free from intentional sin though admittedly there might be times when it might be possible for them to do or say something without an intent to harm or awareness of sin and later discover that harm had occurred. He even claimed to know a few such people whom he considered having achieved “perfection” in love, although I’m not aware that he ever claimed such “perfection” for himself. “Perfection”, however one defines it, is something that appears to be a state of being to which few even want to aspire. They prefer to remind people regularly that they themselves, and by implication everyone else also, are not “perfect.” . It seems that anytime something challenges one’s higher moral view of himself or herself, the first response is, “Well, I’m not perfect…..and, by the way, neither are you.”
The tendency to default to comparison against others instead of willingness to look at oneself seems to be fairly universal.
Others prefer to measure progress in efforts at righteousness in their life journey against their own past efforts. “Well, at least I don’t do… (insert the former pattern of sin here, i.e. curse, drink, beat my wife, yell at my child, whatever)….anymore, so I’m making progress.” This one, while more accepting of personal responsibility, still looks only at past behavior that has been overcome and avoids addressing the current circumstance or the next thing that God desires to work on in one’s life. I have to confess that I have tended to use this standard.
A story is told about a room full of pianos. Each one was tuned to the perfect pitch of a single tuning fork and even though each piano had its own tone and timbre, all of them harmoniously struck the cued key’s note true to pitch, because each was tuned to the same perfect pitch.
If we do not acknowledge that a standard exists, that set by Christ, the “perfect” measure, but instead insist on measuring by comparison against others or against past performance, then we will find that our progress will be stunted.
Another thing about this issue of the pursuit (or non-pursuit) of “perfection”, is how many seem to be “trying”. If I had a nickel for every time I myself have used that excuse or heard that excuse, “….but I’m TRYING!” I’d never need to check my bank account balance again. We are told to be DOERS of the Word, not TRY-ERS of the Word. Why are so many content to continue trying, instead of actually doing? “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” The implication, as I have understood that adage, is that in trying, even if necessary several times, there is an expectation that one WILL be able to eventually succeed. It seems though, that in striving toward righteousness, if we try and fail, we can just default to, “Well, I’m not perfect.” Do they go hand in hand, perhaps because there is not a serious expectation that succeeding is possible? Of is fear of failure keeping us from expecting that our efforts at being more like Christ can bring success?
Matthew 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” .