“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
– Matthew 5:43-48
“The true expression of Christian character is not in good-doing, but in God-likeness. If the Spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit divine characteristics in your life, not just good human characteristics. God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly. The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical, everyday details of life, not in times of intimate fellowship with God. And when we come in contact with things that create confusion and a flurry of activity, we find to our own amazement that we have the power to stay wonderfully poised even in the center of it all.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
On the face of it, you read this snippet from Oswald Chambers and you think, this guy has got to be crazy. How can anyone be perfect?
Yet, let’s look at what most coaches tell you to do. (Okay, before we get started, as a mathematical purist, I hate this expression, passionately.) Coaches will tell you to give 110%. People, all you have is 100%. It is impossible to give more, but in exhorting their athletes to give beyond what they physically can give, they might possibly break the barrier that separates us from a valiant effort to call upon the reserves that the body sets aside for self-preservation. In working to such limits, the sporting event might be won.
But those involuntary limits that the body creates for our protection are for our protection. Does the coach not care that he is putting his athletes in danger of injury, physical collapse, or death? Apparently not. He or she is interested in the “W”, and not really interested in the immediate damage to the body or the long-range effects. That seems to be changing. And don’t think that I am being melodramatic here. The modern marathon is 26 miles 385 feet (or 42.195 km). It was set for 40 km in 1896, the distance from Marathon to Athens, commemorating the messenger who ran the road and reported a great Grecian victory in Marathon, only to die after delivering the message. From 1896 through 1904, 40 km was long enough, but at the London Olympics of 1908, Queen Alexandra of Great Britain wanted to witness the end of the race on the palace lawn of Windsor Castle. Thus, the race was artificially lengthened, and it has been that length ever since. Yet, the marathon is raced to commemorate the first messenger who died delivering a message. We all know of athletes who have died while competing.
But, as Christians, we have a spiritual 110%. All we can give is 100%, but God gives us strength beyond ourselves. And to use the mind-play of the old coach, if we settle on 100% or even less than 100% of our own strength, we never get to rely upon God to stretch us beyond our strength and rely upon His strength.
Although Chambers exhorts us to be perfect, quoting Jesus exhorting His disciples to be perfect, we are not going to be perfect – in this life. But if we do not try – have that as our goal, we will never come close.
As the Apostle Paul states (1 Corinthians 9:24), we should all run the race to win it. We are all running a race. The finish line is our final breath. We will enter new bodies that will be perfect. What we should each do between now and then is work hard for glimpses of how we will feel in our new skin.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.