Here’s another harm we’re doing by pretending to be perfect. By pretending to be perfect, we’re driving away other people. There was a church I came up in when I was a teenager, it was a place I loved deeply and dearly. I matured into a man in that youth group, felt fully accepted and loved, for the first time I started to see God as a real person and not just a grand idea. As I passed into adulthood and moved out of the youth group, I ran straight into a church full of perfect people. I hadn’t realized it before, I was just loving life in the youth group, but as I tried to find my place among the congregation at large, I found that I had no place. Because the people were perfect, and I wasn’t. I looked around, trying to find my corner, my group, my spot, and I found perfect people. A perfect couple, a perfect young adult, a perfect college guy, a perfect businessman with his perfect family. And I knew that while I was doing okay with God, I was far from perfect. And I started to think there was something wrong with me, that I didn’t belong in church because church was for perfect people. And I walked away, and it was a long time before I ended up back in a church.
Now, a few things about that story. First of all, none of those people were perfect. I know that now, but as an 18/19 year old, I just didn’t realize it. Second of all, I’m not blaming this entire church for pushing me away. I chose to leave, I chose to put my eyes on the people and not the God. I don’t believe in blaming a bad experience with people as a reason to stop going to church. Ultimately I made the decision, no one forced me out those doors. And most of those people were probably great people, but in my immaturity and in my insecurity I went searching for acceptance among the crowd, and I ran into a few people that I felt were pretending to be perfect. And I knew I didn’t measure up, and I ran for the door and I didn’t go back into a church for years.
When we pretend to be perfect, we lose our ability to relate to imperfect people. And we’re all imperfect people. If I refuse to ever admit a fault, how can I ever expect someone who has faults to feel comfortable to come up and talk with me about a problem they’re having? They want to talk to someone who can understand, someone who also struggles, someone who’s been through it too. My favorite pastors and teachers are the ones that aren’t afraid to be human, who aren’t afraid to say that yes, they too are imperfect. Man, their words shoot straight to my heart after that. Because I get them, and I know that they get me too. They may be further along than me, may have conquered things I still struggle with, but they’re not perfect just like I’m not perfect. There’s that point of connection where I know they understand what I’m going through, and can have a heart of empathy and compassion for me. They won’t look down on me, turn up their nose, toss some random Bible verse at me and then run away. They can say I’ve been there, I struggle too, here are the ways God’s helped me.
We’re hurting ourselves by pretending to be perfect and we’re hurting others by pretending to be perfect. I am not perfect. My family isn’t perfect, my job isn’t perfect, my best friend isn’t perfect, my church isn’t perfect, and my pastors aren’t perfect. In some ways we can be downright broken, just like I’m sure in some ways you can be downright broken.
Followers of Christ have a bad reputation in our society. It’s for more than one reason, and not all the reasons are valid, but some of them are. And one of the reasons is because we pretend to be perfect when we’re not. We preach what Jesus practiced and we preach that we too practice it but in truth we aren’t practicing what we preach. Not always. Being imperfect isn’t the worst thing in the world, but choosing to remain imperfect is. I’m a work in progress too, but as long as you’re realizing your imperfections and working on them, bringing them before God and asking for his help, I’m cool. I don’t mind being broken in an area of my life, I mind staying broken, I mind accepting it as my status quo. But here’s the problem, when we don’t practice what we preach, yet we continue to pretend to be perfect anyways, we’re telling non-believers that we’re not serious about our faith. I can tell a dishonest friend he needs to lead a truthful life because the Bible says so, but I should also share with that friend that I struggle with exaggeration myself. I can tell a friend who isn’t reading the Bible that he needs to get himself in God’s word, but I should also share that for the first 33 years of my life I barely ever cracked the cover myself.
You don’t have to live perfectly, but if you’re hoping to impact those around you, you sure need to live authentically. A friend taught me this recently, that you either practice what your preach, stop preaching it, or own up to the fact that you struggle with it too. That boils down to living an authentic life for Christ. If I’m going to wait until I’m perfect to share about Jesus then I’m going to be waiting until death and I’ll end up telling nobody about Him. So if I want to share Him, which is the thing He called us all to do, then I need to do it from a place of true authenticity. A place of honesty and truth. Because if I preach my own perfection standing on a rickety, poorly constructed platform, sooner or later that platform is going to collapse out from under me. And I wont’ be remembered for the words I preached, I’ll be remembered for that fall I took while I spoke about my perfect life.
PRAYER AND CLOSING
Father God, you are perfection. You are a being of perfect love, of perfect knowledge, of perfect holiness. We’re created in your image, but you know us, we’re not perfect like you. But God, today I ask that you work mightily through our imperfections. Let our imperfections draw us closer to you, let them be the thing that makes us realize our deep need for you in our lives. Teach us, guide us, strengthen us, build us up, Lord. You take in the broken and you build them into something beautiful. Your word is full of imperfect people playing a part in carrying out your perfect plans. It’s full of imperfect people that grew under your leadership and your guidance and with you in their lives. God, I ask you right now to call the imperfect to you like never before. All those broken areas that people point out as reasons they can’t go to church, I ask that you take that brokenness and you use it to pull them to you. Just get people to you. Because once they’re with you, everything starts to change. Thank you for not casting me out over my imperfections, God. Thank you that you use me despite my lack of perfection, and that you put it on my heart to work on my imperfections. Continue to give me a heart to try to eliminate the imperfections I have. And thank you so much for loving me through it all. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, amen.
It’s a new week, summer is in full swing, and it feels like 2016 is just flying by. As the year is now more than half over, take a moment to push pause today and think about something good that’s happened in your life this year. So often we define our year by the negative things that happened in it, but let’s define the first half of 2016 by the positives. I love you guys, and I know for a fact that God loves you, too.