by Mary Linda McKinney



This message was given to me in worship a couple of Sundays ago. I knew it wasn’t for me because I’m a slacker, not a perfectionist, but neither did I feel the prompting to stand and share the message during worship so I am turning it into an essay for whoever needs it.

We are not called to color inside the lines. We are not called to stay on the path. We are not called to be the best or achieve the most or to “succeed,” whatever that means. We’re not called to have impressive careers or keep immaculate houses or always appear just right. We are not called to be perfect according to the standards of our society.

Seeking worldly perfection means following a narrow set of values very carefully. It means not making mistakes. It means striving, working very hard to be the best by the conventions given to us by our culture. Seeking society’s standards of perfection blocks energy. It pushes us into always thinking “more! faster! better!” and makes us worry. When we are seeking to be perfect, we get locked into roles and methods and forms.

In the New Testament book of Matthew, chapter 5 ends with Jesus saying this: “Be perfect, therefore, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In most translations of the Bible the Greek word “teleios” is translated into English as “perfect” but it can also be translated as “complete.” The Common English Bible says this: “Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.”

When I think about the word “complete” I think of wholeness and integrity. When this message was given to me, two well-known queries came to mind:

  • Do all aspects of your life bear the same witness?
  • Do all things take their rightful place in your life?

God does not call us to be perfect according to the standards of our society. God calls us to wholeness. Spirit’s invitations to us are generative and creative and leave a lot of room for making mistakes and the grace of giving over the mistakes so they can be used for good. Matthew 5 begins with the famous passage known as The Beatitudes in which Jesus says that people who feel their deep feelings and model lovingkindness are blessed by God. In this chapter, Jesus is telling us how Divine Energy wants to move through us. We are called to care for those who need the most help. We are called to work for justice and show mercy. We’re called to be generous with our resources and our compassion. For me, being “complete as my heavenly Parent is” means that I should take what I have been given, my entire self, and offer it back so my beloved Creator may use all of me to care for others and the world around me. I do this not as an act of martyrdom but as a channel of love.

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3 thoughts on “Perfection”

  1. Thanks, Mary Linda. Being perfect as God is perfect always seemed a bizarre stretch. So I like this reinterpretation.
    I very much like your “offering back.” Sometimes I find it hard to keep this in mind, other times it comes easily.

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