To be a ‘perfect Christian’ reminds me of Paul, an apostle, who wanted to make sure others knew that he carried a big stick on this perfection stuff. He wrote: “though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4-6) Under the Law he was blameless… he was perfect.
Perfectionism usually starts when we begin believing that our self-worth is based on our achievements. Paul’s words were ‘confidence in the flesh.’ It may have started and been driven by internal pressures, such as the desire to avoid failure or harsh and unfair judgment from parents, family, preachers, teachers, peers, coaches or Sunday School teachers or the shift leader at Burger King. It is most commonly some form of fear of disapproval from others and feelings of insecurity or inadequacy of not living up to someone else’s standards… especially perhaps parents…or God’s.
It is completely the same with religious perfectionism. Jesus just called it being a ‘Pharisee’ or living one way and internally being another way. (See Matthew 23:1-36) To get waylaid by law-keeping religious perfection is only a little worse than being a daily perfectionist without religion. Law is death. Grace is life… because if we don’t get it all exactly right…we can still be all right.
“The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.” Jesus