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What if Jesus called us to be imperfect?

Originally published Wednesday, 07 May 2014.

But you are called to something higher: “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 (VOICE)


At seven, I learnt to form crude letters with a pencil. I would create lengthy stories, inscribing them in immature letters for my teacher.

After I finished crafting each new story my teacher would call me to her desk to read it to her. I thought she asked me to read them to her because I was a good storyteller. I never imagined she asked me to read them to her because the words I formed made no sense without my interpretation.

I never considered that my spelling rendered my teacher illiterate.

I was diagnosed with an audio perception problem and part of my therapy meant a visit to speech therapist twice a week.

Adele taught me to play word games. She would read the word. I would match the word with a picture. If I got it right, the puzzle could be flipped over to reveal a secret pattern. If I got it wrong, the other side revealed my mistakes in broken lines.

I found this really frustrating. I failed often.

Perfect children did not need speech therapy and they excelled if they did go.

I would think, “Why can I not do this? Why can I not be perfect?"

I would get annoyed with myself and I would cry in frustration. Adele stopped our work one day to ask me why I cried.

I told her I was crying because I was not perfect.

When I look back at that incident I realise that there have been many times in my life when I have felt imperfect. 

I’ve wondered at the scripture in Matthew 5:48 that says, “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” It seems impossible. And sometimes it feels like unnecessary pressure.

Recently I was reading Amy Julia Becker’s book, A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny. Her daughter, Penny, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome shortly after birth and her memoir is an honest wrestling and surrendering to God.

She writes about a day she was grappling with this verse. Thinking how Jesus must have known we’d never be perfect if his definition was without a flaw, without blemish, without desires, without pain. 

A theology student she dug out a Greek Dictionary and looked up the root word of perfect in this verse. Turns out the word is telos. 

Telos can be translated as perfect or as “wholeness, completion, the end for which you were created.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

Doesn’t it take some of the pressure off being perfect? 

In The Message Bible this verse is translated closer to this second definition: 

Live out your God-created identity. 

Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. (tweet this)

When I read this verse in light of perfect being the end for which I was created, the story looks different. 

It looks like being invited up to my teachers’ desk to read as a seven year old. My vowels are all misplaced, and my sounds are muddled but my teacher asks me to deliver a story anyway. Telos looks like generosity and graciousness towards me in my struggles.

It looks like a speech therapist who could have told a child to wipe away their tears and figure out a puzzle but instead pauses to listen to a heart. Telos looks like generosity and graciousness towards me in my struggles.

I think Jesus is like that. 

I think Jesus is gracious and generous to me in my struggles.  (tweet this)

I think when Jesus said, “Telos”, he wasn’t commanding perfect living but rather inviting me to live life to the full, calling me live a life of generosity and scandalous grace. 

Ponder: Have you struggled with living a “perfect” life? Does this devotional change your idea of what that might look like?

Pray: Jesus, help me to live out my God-created identity. Show me opportunities to live generously and graciously toward others. Amen.

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- This was orginally published on my site in March 2014 to read more devotionals like this go to ilovedevotionals.com