Saturday, May 31, 2014


Francis Schaeffer often said that "If you desire perfection or nothing, you will get nothing."

The implications of that thought are very profound. Something which keeps me thinking, as I strive in work and in life.  

Take a look at the graphic on the left. What do you see? At the top left, is a photo of me, which is un-doctored. Now look at the one in the lower right-hand corner. This one has been digitally enhanced. The image attempts to be perfect, except for one obvious thing. It's simply not real. I personally find the image a little disturbing!

Having spent the last several months looking for a new job, I found myself at times torn between these two versions of me. On one hand you want people to see the best likeness of you in the best possible light, when you are being scrutinized. Yet on the other hand you want to be real. You want to be authentic and not fake or plastic. Thus, a tension arises, between notions of perfection and reality. Something is lost when we try to be something we are not. 

All of this got me thinking. What if people were to see the real you? All of your failures, your worst sins, and your most glaring mistakes? Thinking about this, we are forced to introspection. Yet if we were truly honest, if we truly opened up that closet, and brought out all of the skeletons, none of us would display a perfect image. In fact, what people might find would probably be something ugly and offensive. In some way, some how, there would be something that would show glaringly that we miserably fall short of being perfect. How can anyone stand with dignity, when all of the lights are turned on, shining directly into the darkest corners of our life?

As a Christian, the concept of image and perfection is a rather complex matter. It involves understanding four notions at once. Firstly, scripture teaches that we were made perfect, in the image of God, but that we also are the imperfect Sons of Adam, as C.S. Lewis calls us. We are fallen, imperfect creatures, who have lost our perfection, and the image of God is
largely obscured in us. Yet further, thankfully, the third truth, is that a Second Adam has come, namely Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who has died to give us His perfection.
So what has this got to do with personal and professional image? Well the implications are enormous. Creatively, being made in the image of God, we firstly believe that mankind was made with great dignity and that each person is deserving of our respect. How practical is that in all areas of life? Yet secondly, we are also Sons of Adam, which requires that we each acknowledge our sinfulness. Who can forget the words of Christ, when he tells those who accused the adulterous woman, "Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone?" Do we require absolute perfection of others, when we ourselves are imperfect?

While these two notions seem to offset each other, when we consider the original perfection versus our current imperfection, they beg for the third clarification, that we who are in Christ, are new creatures, awaiting our full transformation. The real question becomes... how do we live this way? How do we live between two worlds?

Well, think of it like this. If I am to live for Christ, in any setting, there must be a recognition that the image I present contains both perfection and imperfection, but more than this, my image is transforming! I am physically and spiritually imperfect, and yet everything good that I am, has come from God. Whether from how He created me, and the gifts He has given me, or what He has brought forth in my life through the work of Christ. Let's not forget that these are perfect gifts to an imperfect person. Think of these three verses together:
In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28a ESV)
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 ESV)  
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 ESV)
In these three verses, we see what appears to be contrasting notions. Schaeffer explains this concept as like standing between two cliffs.
The command is clear as a bell: no second—rate standards. “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” [Matt 5:48] In his stand against the concept of a static perfectionism, the careful theologian will say that we sin daily in thought, word and deed. But woe betide us if we count this our norm. That is totally destructive. There is a difference between the declarative statement that we sin daily and the normative statement that such sinning is acceptable. We can say that we sin daily in thought, word and deed without then resting upon our oars and excusing ourselves. Again, to go over either side of the cliff is equally destructive. ~ Francis Schaeffer, Some Absolute Limits

If we walk off of the perfection cliff, we lapse into Legalism. If we walk off the imperfection cliff, we fall to our death via Antinomianism. The proper place to live is not on either side, or having to choose between these two "isms," but rather another one, namely, Transformationalism! This is the image I am to bear, I am to bear the image of Christ, who both created me and is now transforming me. The creative and transformational work in me, should then be aspiring to live moment-by-moment transforming, to show His victory to a watching world.
    My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1 ESV) 

"God has always intended that Christians should be the evidence, the demonstration, of Christ's victory on the cross." ~ Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality, pg 63 (1971)