Read time: 3m 44s
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:48
"I could never be 'perfect' like God is!" you say.
"Well of course not," your friend replies. "What a silly thought! All God is asking is that we do our best. Can you do your best?"
"Yes," you say, "I can do my best."
Hey, quick question... When have you ever done your best!?
Now, you might have "tried a little harder." You might have done something "uncomfortable." You "attempted." You might have even succeeded and hit what you were aiming at. But, "your best"?
Because of sin, we fall short. "Short," as in, "never your best."
Let's say you feel "convicted" to do a good thing, to do something nice. Great.
But did you obey right away? Immediately? Or did you "think about it"? "Pray about it"? Did you weigh the pros-and-cons? Were there a few moments, hours, days, weeks, months, of delay between the prompting and the actual obedience? So, not best.
But did you obey with a good spirit? Were you cheerful when you gave? Were you full of hope that God would work? Did you wonder at all whether they deserved it? Were you conflicted in your motives, like, repaying a favor or trying to earn some conscession? Were you frustrated that they weren't grateful...enough? So, not best.
But did you obey fully, completely? Couldn't you have done more? Couldn't you have been kind a little bit longer, or been a little clearer about your love, or about God's glory? Couldn't you have been more generous? Why did you stop where you did, when you did? Was that all they deserved, all you felt was necessary, or all you could give without really sacrificing anything? So, not best.
But did you obey intelligently, wisely? Did you pray about what would be most effective in serving them? Did you think about the consequences, consider their emotional state, take stock of their circumstances? Did you really have their best interest in mind, or were you just doing the thing that came easily for you? Was it about what they need most, or about making yourself feel better? So, not best.
But did you obey righteously? Did your service truly glorify God? Was it according to His will? Did it strengthen their faith in Christ? Did you pray about it? Did you pray during it? After it? So, not best.
Let's be honest. Maybe what we mean by "best" is, "I did all that I care to do, in a way I thought would be minimally successful, without messing up my schedule too badly."
When Jesus says to be "perfect" like our Father is, He didn't mean, "try a little harder."
There's no version of our good works that is untouched by sin, self-interest, weakness, and folly. So, what does "best" even mean? Me with no weakness? No fatigue, hunger, pain? No aging? No brain-fog? No forgetfulness? What fun is that, for God? How can He serve someone so strong? How can He care for someone so tough? How can He show us His glory if we're so blazingly full of our own? "Best" does not mean, "Be so like God that you don't need God or ever look to Him."
For us to be perfect, our "best" selves, in God's eyes, is rather to be so enamored with Him, so pleased by His grace and so in awe of His strength and dumbfounded by His generosity, that we--keeping our eyes on Him, and despite stumbling, being scared, weak, fatigued, and often misguided--we live a little of His kind of life in our lives. It's not our best; it's not very good at all. But God knows who we are, what we're capable of. He knows it's not our best. But to Him, it's perfect. It's what He wants to use to share His glory and love with others. Somehow in our weak-love, His strong-love arrives.
But don't think you're doing your best. Don't think that's all God wants. But also don't think that He wants something more than your best. He wants you. He wants your heart to love Him--both with its broken and happy bits. He wants your strength (and weakness) to love others in a you-like way. Your best Christian life is happening now in real time: growing, learning, trying, failing, loving, healing, etc. Be you. Be you for God.
Let Wall Street, Hollywood, and DC do their "best." Let's you and me walk with the Father. No smoke, no bologna, no "best." Here we are. Here we go.