“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the Ttax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:44-48 (English Standard Version)
Perfectionism is the achilles heel of not only creative professionals, but an entire generation raised on Photoshop, auto-tuning, and slickly-spun media. Social media creates a further deepening into this pit of the perfect. Instagram filters and edited life events on your Facebook timeline give an immediate presence that fools us into thinking sharing is being authentic. We produce our lives, managing our micro-celebrity like a mini-publicist. Youtube feels real, until you monetize it. As creatives, we are about the story. Instead of a hike in the forested redwoods, we stroll through a faux-reality of our own making. And, we wonder why this feels lesser than real life. It is perfect. But, as we all know utopia is a dark path of denial.
Spiritually, we know we are commanded to be perfect. So, to be like God, we create a new set of rules in physics that make time and space irrelevant. Perfect as God is perfect may look a lot different than we realize. God made humans. On one hand we celebrate humanism and the potential of man while faulting ourselves as “human”–even on things that have nothing to do with mistakes. Our faces usually are not symmetrical. Sometimes we forget things. Our thoughts fight our emotions and then our body pays the price of this chemically conflicted cocktail. Humans are messy. Not perfect.
The only human in our Christian faith that we declare as perfect is Christ himself. This perfect human was born in a barn. He cried. He got tired. The agony of his destiny stressed him profoundly. Betrayal hurt deeply. Perfection is supposed to be sanitized, not bloody on a cross. Suffering servants are not our view of perfected humanity. We are hoping for a Disneyland-happiest-place-on-earth existence. We get unfiltered, out-of-tune expression. Messy can be perfect. In fact, it might be the key to being perfect.
When the earth was formed, it had stages of messy formlessness. God’s finger painting of creation progressed to the point of it being good, but in one of his highest acts of creativity he breathed his image bearer out of the dirt. The creativity of God chose to play in a sandbox, not a clean room or a lab. When God fed his people in the wilderness, manna from heaven dropped to the ground. There was no three second rule in effect. Jesus healed a blind man by spit-produced mud applied to the eyes.Messy? Yes. Perfect? Yes.
The messy worship of the woman who wasted a jar of precious perfume on the dirty feet of Jesus represents a more perfect worship than the sanitized production of a weekend modern worship service where the apparent goal is to mass-produce an experience. The messy stories behind the preachers, worship leaders, and worshipers mean more than we know. The fog machine is cool. But, it is the perfect of God that is seen in the dirt. Light beams are seen in darkness. Jesus came to earth, with the fog machines of farm animal hooves lifting dust. The angels sang to smelly, messy shepherds.
Loving one’s enemies has to be one of the messiest thoughts from God’s perfection. When God loves us while we were his enemies, apparently it profits him nothing just as it would not profit us to act that way. This is illogical in the relational department. But, this very messy act is perfection! The upside down religion of God’s grace and love is far different than the country club. When we send rain, we want it to be efficient. The just will get more inches of rain. But, we know God is not like this. The invitation is to be generous beyond reason. Loving people as God does means you look pretty messy.
The glory of God chooses to be reflected in the most messy areas of humanity. The very Incarnation declares the Word becoming flesh and walking among us. This means the disciples dug latrines. It means sandals were worn out and sweat soaked the cloaks of our Savior. In all of this, Jesus is perfect. And, so we can be, too. But, it is not going to come from cozy, manufactured religion. It is going to come from being a bit messy as we create. Create in the messy desk of your humanness. God not only wants to redeem your humanity, he wants to remind you that he made it.