Chocolate is the perfect food, isn’t it?
After all, it is one of the basic food groups. It’s made from the cocoa bean, and beans give us protein. It’s derived from a plant, so it has no animal fats that are bad for us. The best chocolates usually contain milk, which provides a dairy component. What else can you ask for?
Norman Love Confections in Fort Myers, Florida, creates utterly perfect chocolates. I use a star system for the Norman Love chocolates that I try. 4-stars for my favorites, 3-stars for very good, 2-stars for the ones that are only so-so—and that’s only because I don’t care for the interior filling. I haven’t yet found one that rated no stars or 1 star!
Perfection is a challenge. We expect it of ourselves and we expect it of others. Of course, we all know that only God is perfect. Yet, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5, ESV) What are we supposed to do with that? How can we accomplish perfection?
In Hebrews, we read: As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. (Hebrews 10:11-18)
In God’s eyes, we have been made perfect through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But we know in our flesh we have not yet achieved perfection. And on our own, we cannot.
There’s a myth that when the Amish make a quilt, they intentionally include a mis-matched block, to demonstrate that only God can be perfect. However, according to Google, it appears that someone who made a mistake in their quilt invented that story as their excuse.
Xenia Cord, a quilt historian at Indiana State, says, “If intentionally making a design flaw in order to avoid the perfection that is relegated to God alone is done to keep the maker humble, isn’t this in itself a kind of arrogance? (i.e., ‘I’m so good that unless I mess up intentionally, I am perfect.’) Where’s the humility in that?” Cord also wryly wonders, “[I]s there a quilter among us who is so good that she makes NO errors in piecing, joining, appliqueing, or quilting (that can’t be fudged or covered up)?”
Is there anyone among us who is so good that he or she never messes up? We don’t have to make mistakes on purpose. We do just fine messing up on our own. Our failures contrast with God’s holiness. This can serve to bring glory to God by showing His perfection in contrast to our weaknesses.
The apostle Paul wrote, “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NKJV)
So does this mean we don’t worry about living a righteous, holy life, since our lack of holiness will demonstrate that only God is perfect?
Of course not! Or, as Romans 6:2 puts it, “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
We are called to live righteous lives, to seek to become like Jesus, to reflect His holiness to the world around us. But we struggle with what that means.
One definition for righteousness calls it “Rectitude, justice, holiness; an essential perfection of God’s character.” Thus when Ephesians 6 says to “put on the breastplate of righteousness,” we equate it with being perfect, especially in spiritual things. So we strive to act in ways that appear righteous, and we feel discouraged when we fail to be “perfect Christians.” But righteousness is “the intention to be and to do right.” It means aligning our lives with God’s expectations, as far as we are able with His help.
Author Priscilla Schirer writes, “Perfection is an utterly impossible, utterly unreasonable quest. And the enemy would even like to use this to his advantage, inciting us to chase perfectionism instead of chasing God.”
Righteousness springs from the inside out as the Holy Spirit works in our lives. It is not through my actions, but through the cross of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, that I can become righteous. As Schirer puts it, “You no longer need to exhaust yourself striving for perfection. You are already completely, wholly, and perfectly righteous because of Christ’s gift to you.”
It’s one thing to recognize that I am not perfect, except in Jesus, but I often expect perfection from others. I’m disappointed and hurt when someone else fails me—when they criticize, or speak sharply, or ignore me. In self-defense, I become “Christianly challenged.”
We have to remember that no one else is perfect, either. His grace enables us to accept the imperfectness of each other and of our flesh, but to accept in gratitude the work He is doing in us.
Instead of letting Satan beat you up because you can’t pray as articulately as the next person, or because you made a mistake in your work, or spoke a harsh word to a co-worker, remember that Jesus is still working on you. And the next time someone speaks harshly to you, or doesn’t do what you think they should, show them grace by remembering they are not yet perfected either.
Enjoy chocolate, but when you eat it, know that chocolate is not really the perfect food. It does have calories! Instead, let it serve as a reminder to go through each day, as Hebrews 12:2 says, “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.”