In Pursuit of Perfection

WARNING: This is the hashing through of some things God's been working on with me. It is sometimes a bit disjointed. Welcome to the chaos that is my brain...

What is sin, really? How we define it determines how we address it in others - and how we view God's take on it and on us. All of my religious life I've been taught a basic rule: Obedience equals righteousness equals love; disobedience equals sin equals hate. Simple. So I can measure if I'm righteous (pleasing God, measuring up, really love Him) by if I'm being obedient. But I'm not always obedient. In fact, I'm disobedient quite a bit. Which means I'm not measuring up. Which means I'm backslidden. Which means I don't really love Him. Which means I'm guilty. Which means I am condemned. Just ask me; I can tell you that my heart is telling me I'm not good enough - ever. The condemnation is nearly a physical presence. And it's all a logical following from that view of sin based on the proof verses that have been given; primarily the verses that say "If you love me, keep my commandments" and "to obey is better than sacrifice." But...

What if that understanding of those verses is wrong? What if they mean that my love for Him will manifest itself in acts of obedience, not that I need to self-examine and determine to will myself to obey, thereby *proving* my love? What if, in fact, obedience is simply an outgrowth of a loving relationship, a by-product if you will, rather than a self-willed act predicated on my understanding the will of God and turning away from "sinful disobedience" and toward "righteous obedience." Doesn't our very understanding of love recoil at the thought of having to "prove ourselves" to our lover? Doesn't love accept you for who you are and seek mutual service, not some series of hoops through which you must jump to gain its favor? Does love really say "if you don't do what I want you do to, you must not really love me"? If we saw a human relationship run on that understanding, wouldn't we call it "unhealthy" at best or "abusive" at worst? Yet we attribute this to God...and we transfer it to our parenting techique. IF YOU LOVE ME YOU *WILL* DO AS I SAY, AND IF YOU DON'T, YOU PROVE THAT DON'T LOVE OR RESPECT ME AND YOU WILL FACE MY CONDEMNATION.

If I was incapable of offering a perfect sacrifice of blood, how in the world can I be expected to offer a perfect sacrifice of obedience? I'm set up for failure and condemnation by this rule. How does that fit with the verses that say "there is none righteous," or "the Law was added so that trespass might increase"... does that mean that God sets me up for failure? That doesn't seem to gel with Who He says He is or with the whole of the rest of Scripture. Although it *does* make a convenient mode through which large numbers of people can be manipulated into furthering a certain person or group's ambitions or goals. Obey the Spiritual chain of command, voila! You're good enough. Disobey it? Tut-tut... you need to get right with God or get back into submission to His will (as revealed through said chain of command, of course.) And I'm thinking that it leads to the reproduction of lots of "whitewashed sepulchres" who are polished on the outside, but whose hearts are centered on self and whether self measures up rather than on God and loving Him.

However, what if sin's definition is what I read on another blog recently:

"Sin is falling short of perfection. Since we are not perfect, everything we do falls short. Thus, everything we do is in some way sinful....Debating forever about whether something is sinful or not is indeed long and tedious."

What if sin is, indeed, simply the missing of the mark of perfection. What if that military term is what it means, pure and simple - nothing more, nothing less. Just slotting your arrow, aiming as best you can at the target, drawing back the bowstring with all your strength, retaining as steady a hand as you can manage, letting fly,... and missing. What if, before the foundation of the world, the Creator *knew* that the creation couldn't hit that mark. What if that's why the Lamb was slain BEFORE THE FOUNDATION? This seems to gel better with Who He says He is and what He says my relationship to Him is. He says that apart from Him I can do nothing. He says that all of my righteousness is as filthy rags. He KNOWS that I can't hit perfection to save my life. That's why He saved my life for me. That's why He sacrificed Himself from the beginning. That's why He says that sin was in the world already before the Law (we didn't measure up before we ever realized that we didn't measure up.) That's why He sent the Law to reveal my need to me and the Messiah to fulfill the Law for me. That's why He says that there is no condemnation in Him; what is there to condemn? I just can't do it on my own - the created cannot attain being the Creator. No condemnation there, just truth. I'm good, but I'm not *that* good. And He doesn't *expect* me to be. What He wants - what He desires me to obey - is that I love Him for Who HE is. That I accept that I can't be Him, relax in being who I am, and let Him provide the lack. That our relationship bind us together as one, He the undeniably stronger partner, and that I rest and revel in that love, returning it as I am able through doing what would please Him rather than trying to *compete* with it and prove that I can be as good as He can.

So, what is it that would please Him? Do I need to cull the Scripture for a listing of activities in which I must involve myself? Attitudes which I must adopt? Or did He really mean what He said: that the whole of the Law and the Prophets hangs on two simple things - Love God and Love People. Can it really be that simple? Can it be so easy to individualize to my own talents and interests? Can my relationship with Him be just that - mine - and not have to look like anybody else's who has different talents, interests, and strengths? Can He really be able to love me, and you, and everybody else, for who we are? Can He complete me where I'm incomplete, and you where you are incomplete, and accept our love in the ways that we can exhibit it? Even if it's different from one another? Even if it isn't perfect?

And can we pass that kind of love on to our own kids? Can we accept them for who they are, love them and help to fill in their gaps, without condemning them for being incomplete and in need of a Messiah, too? Can we be patient with where their gaps coincide with our own and we both need the intervention of our Creator? Can we accept the love they can give in the manner in which they can give it and not bat it aside as not quite as perfect as we'd hoped? Can we accept their obedience as an outpouring of their love rather than demanding it as a proof of it? Can we accept their disobedience as a sign that they're as much a created thing as we are ourselves? And can we use it as an opportunity to introduce them to the Creator who loves them and knows they miss the mark and provided for them before the foundations of the world?

Or will we continue the cycle of predictable failure? And predictable depression? And predictable turning away from a god they can never please?

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