The Ideal | The Reality

The Ideal:
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” ~ Matthew 5:48

The Reality:
“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God ….” ~ Romans 3:23

The Ideal:
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” ~ 2 Peter 3:9

The Reality:
“… Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” ~ Matthew 7:22-23

There is no point in mistaking the ideal for the reality (or vice-versa) in scripture. The Lord has expectations of us, but they are not unreasonable. He was a perfect example; God decided that we needed and deserved that, and that only a perfect Sacrifice would prove worthy. But there is no indication in scripture that perfection is expected of us.

Instead, the perfection of Christ covers our imperfections.

The Ideal and the Reality:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” ~ Isaiah 53:5

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” ~ 1 John 2:1-2

If God had expected perfection from us, expected nothing else, foresaw nothing else … there would have been no need for “… the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” ~ Revelation 13:8.

Perfection should be our goal; we should aim no lower. We should yearn to be like Christ; to learn obedience as He did (Hebrews 5:8-9). He should be our Ideal.

But we should also have a sense of reality. We will not be perfect. We will need His perfection between ourselves and God, the vindication of His good and righteous will for us.

It is not what we do that saves us, but what He has done.

It is not by what He has done that we will be judged, but by what we say (Luke 19:22) and do (Matthew 25:31-46) that testifies each moment to our belief in what He has done.

That is how the world will judge us: by what we say and by what we do. That is how the world will judge Him through us.

And that is how the world will be judged by Him.

12 thoughts on “The Ideal | The Reality

  1. Keith, this is an interesting post that’s been at the back of my mind for a few days now.

    I don’t wanna say that I disagree with it, because I don’t.

    And at the same time, something about it just rubs me the wrong way. I think it’s the part where you say that “there’s no indication in scripture that perfection is expected of us…”

    That’s the part I’m still trying to wrap my brain around.

    Maybe I’ll be back here later, after some more thought…

    • Lacey, I think you might be reacting that way because of what Jesus says in Matthew 5:48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” But what He says is not so much an expectation of God, but a goal to shoot for. It follows the Beatitudes, and the immediate context is loving people who are not easy to love.

      That’s what I think He means: “Be perfect at loving imperfect people, as God is.” (The word “perfect” can also be translated “complete.”) “Be completely loving, as God is.”

      He goes on to talk about giving and loving humbly … praying humbly … fasting humbly … investing humbly … regarding others (including God) humbly … serving humbly … trusting humbly.

      I’m so glad that phrase snagged you so I could share more thoughts about it!

      • Keith, first of all, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m more of an idealist. Definitely a glass-half-full kind of person.

        Second of all, you’re exactly right; I think the Matt. 5:48 scripture is exactly why your phrasing bothered me. I’m very much in agreement with the interpretation made by C.S. Lewis about that scripture: “When He said, ‘Be perfect,’ He meant it.” That’s why I can’t be comfortable with a statement that says He doesn’t really expect it.

        Of course, Lewis then goes on to explain that we have to be willing to allow Him to work in us, to make us perfect. That’s why I can’t disagree with this post–because it definitely points to the fact that the perfection comes from Him, and not us! Again, speaking of Jesus, Lewis says,”That is why He warned people to ‘count the cost’ before becoming Christians. ‘Make no mistake,’ He says, ‘if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect-until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.'”

      • What I tried to put at issue here is whether God is idealist or realist; I believe He is both. He is an idealist when it comes to us setting and pursuing goals, and a realist when it comes to our achieving them.

        Is He disappointed when we don’t achieve them? I’d say not nearly as much as when we fail to set and pursue them. Nothing in scripture indicates that Peter’s ongoing racism excluded him from God’s favor; or Paul’s ambivalence at knowing what was right to do but not doing it; or David’s failures in marriage and parenthood.

        I believe that God’s expectation of us is not that we never stumble, but that we keep getting up and keep moving closer to Him.

      • Maybe Miss Mauk should be speaking before the congregation, I find nothing to disagree with in what she said.
        And everyone knows that is unusual.

  2. I just typed a fairly long response which WordPress refused and lost because I wasn’t already logged in to them. I’m a bit ticked off — this hasn’t happened before and it’s NOT an improvement!

    I’ll try to return later and reconstruct my response. Out of time right now.

  3. 1Pe 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
    1Pe 1:16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
    1Pe 4:18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

    OH, !! I nearly forgot, no one is saved by works, only faith.

  4. We can’t be perfect in the sense we humans understand perfection. But we can be made perfect when we are washed in the blood of Christ, when we are baptized and have our sins washed away, we are made perfect and holy. The problem again lies within us, we continue to fall short, thank God that we can then ask our Father to forgive us and repent and once again be perfect in His sight. The Christian walk is just that a walk, striving to be what He would have us to be.

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