Are you a perfectionist?
Perfectionism runs rampant in today’s society. Perfection, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as, “the quality or state of being perfect.”
When we delve into their definition of “perfect”, the usual suspects are there—definitions that include being entirely without fault or defect, or satisfying all requirements.
Not making mistakes is assumed to be part of the definition. Perhaps, however, perfection as we talk about it in Christianity as a broader definition than that. To see the different potential layers, we have to look to the Bible.
What is Perfection in the Bible?
Perfection is a concept that is covered by several angles in the Bible. It’s not just an abstract idea; the Bible is clear in the ways that God is perfect, that we are being made perfect, and how perfect faith is truly cultivated. The following verses delve into each of those topics, and the quoted verses are from the NIV translation.
Bible Verses About Divine Perfection
1. He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
As the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert, they got to know and interact with God. He had never revealed himself to them like this before—the God of their forefathers had delivered them from Egypt and was now guiding their way and providing food and water for them. He was their salvation.
Early in this relationship, they learned that God’s works are perfect. They learned that he would provide for them, protect them, and that he made a way for them to stay close to them through the Law. They knew, early in their new relationship with him, that he would not lead them astray.
2. Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge? (Job 37:16)
Since humanity sits at the pinnacle of creation, it can be easy to think of ourselves as perfect. However, our knowledge is not perfect, and while there’s power in admitting that we don’t know something it’s important to acknowledge that there are some things that we will never know. Acknowledging that may even bring us a measure of peace.
God alone knows how the universe is stitched together, how it works and how it’s sustained. Science and the study of the universe gives us some knowledge, but only God will ever have the whole picture.
3. The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)
When we read something like “the law of the Lord is perfect”, it can be easy to look at Leviticus and Deuteronomy and balk a little bit. How can it be possible to uphold the law, the whole law? How can one uphold all of the commandments and remain blameless.
When he was asked what the greatest commandment is in Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus takes God’s perfect law and summarizes it in two different statements: “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.” God’s perfect law is fulfilled when we follow those two commandments, and Jesus set the example for us to follow.
4. Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago. (Isaiah 25:1)
God’s faithfulness is perfect. Dwell on that, for a moment. It’s not just talking large scale, like redeeming the earth through Jesus, but also the little ways that he is faithful towards us in our lives—even when we aren’t the most faithful towards him.
2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” Being faithless is against God’s character. Even when we think we don’t deserve it, he will be faithful towards us. Are you willing to receive his perfect faithfulness? It may help you become more faithful to him.
5. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
God’s love towards us is perfect because he is love. He isn’t just loving, he is the standard that love is held to. Familiarity with the perfect love of God should cause us to be without fear as we approach him, even when we are confessing our sins, because if we are in Jesus there is no punishment waiting for us.
Our love pales in comparison to the love that God feels—not only for all of humanity, but also for all of creation. His love is what completes us.
Bible Verses About How We Are To Be Perfect
6. Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
Perfection does not come easily to us. The ways we might measure perfection are often different than how God measures it; our accomplishments, wealth, degrees, and social status aren’t a factor. God measures perfection by how we love God, and by how we love our neighbour.
Jesus’ answer in Matthew 19:21 is to a rich young ruler who has kept the commandments, but can’t bear to be parted from his wealth, not even when it would benefit or be helpful to his neighbour. If we hold personal wealth higher than loving our neighbour, then we will not be able to reach God’s standard of perfection.
7. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14)
If you feel like you never measure up to God’s standard of perfection, you’re not alone. Thankfully it’s not dependent solely on us to develop personal perfection. Jesus makes us perfect and, through the Holy Spirit, works together with us to refine our holiness.
God’s standard of love is high, but he didn’t leave us alone to try and accomplish it. As he has saved us, so he will make us perfect and holy. Be patient as he does his work.
8. “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)
During the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus reveals what his Kingdom will be like, he turns the standard of love as people in his day knew it on its head. No longer was loving people like you enough—no, love was meant to be extended to your enemies and to those who persecute you as well. More than that, at the end of the passage, once again our own personal perfection is connected to how we love others.
The standard of perfection we should be reaching for, in God’s eyes, is bestowing love and favour on everyone—even those we would rather not share space with. Loving people who are like us is easy. Loving people who aren’t like us—who may be from a different tradition or culture than us, who may downright hate us, and more—that’s the perfection we are called to.
Bible Verses About Growing In Perfect Faith
9. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
It can be difficult to persevere in the marathon of our faith, especially when life gets hard. How can you be growing if you don’t feel like you’re progressing further at all? How do we overcome?
Don’t forget that we have Christ-followers of generations past to look to as examples of persevering through hard times, and that, above them all, we have the example of Jesus. He is called the author and perfecter of our faith because he is the one who redeemed us, and he is the one we are called to follow. Perfection of faith doesn’t mean things like reading your Bible the most, or being the “best” at praying—it’s living a life of sacrificial love like Jesus did.
10. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
Perfection does not come from this world. We can see the reflection of it, but we can never grasp the whole reality of it. Focussing on the patterns of this world will cause us to take our eyes off of Jesus, which is why Paul warns against it.
Instead, he calls us to be transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit. It takes time, but only through the Holy Spirit do our hearts become tuned to what matters to God. As we grow in our faith, we are able to discern God’s perfect will better and better.
11. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (1 Corinthians 12:9)
Throughout the Bible, God makes it clear that what is powerful to the world isn’t what power means to him. In Psalm 20:7, it says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” True power isn’t measured by might; it’s founded on trust in God, especially in the moments when we feel we are at our weakest.
The world doesn’t like shows of weakness, but God is clear that our weakness is where his power is perfected. Being strong all the time isn’t the life God is looking for. How can he have room to move and work in our lives if we don’t yield to him in our times of weakness? Weakness is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s how we open ourselves to God’s power moving and being made perfect in us.
Perfection doesn’t have to necessarily be an unreachable ideal. In Christianity, perfection has several different facets attached to it. The standard of perfection that we should be reaching isn’t to be without blemish—rather, to borrow from one last definition of the word “perfect”, we should aim to live lives that “faithfully reproduce the original”.