Perfection Not Required
By Anthony Casperson
I’m currently replaying the video game Divinity: Original Sin 2. The company that created the game had released several special gift bags that added content and special abilities that were not available when I first played the game. And I’d only recently learned about the existence of these optional add-ons. So, I decided to replay it.
Nearing the end of the game, my character discovered that, in order to enter the location where the endgame triggers, they were required to undergo a pilgrimage-like gauntlet. It is said that only those who are wholly blameless are capable of surviving the path. If a single sin had been committed by the person, or not been taken care of in a specific way, anyone partaking in this endeavor would die.
Because it’s not important for my point, and is minorly spoilery for any intending to play the game, I don’t need to get into how the character deals with this particular obstacle. However, I see the idea of having to be perfect or else unworthy to interact with divinity as a thought that many consider true about the real divine God.
Many have this concept that God won’t accept them if they’re not perfect, or if they haven’t dealt with every single sin in their lives. As if God will punish them for that one thing they did that they forgot about. And we followers of Jesus haven’t helped the situation when we look down our noses at individuals who desire relationship with God, but still struggle with obvious sins. (Though we do forget that we still struggle with less-obvious sins. Such pride proves the point.)
And while, biblically, it is true that sin literally cannot exist in the presence of God, because he is so holy, this doesn’t mean that God is unwilling to look at the intentions of our hearts. His design for salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (the Second Person of the Trinity enfleshed in humanity) is his method for dealing with this very problem.
But yet, we still have these internal thoughts that we have to be perfect in order to be in the presence of God without punishment of some sort. We forget that pursuing holiness, reaching for godly actions and thoughts, is just as important (of not more so) than actually having every aspect of our lives being perfectly godly.
It’s not the actions, sacrifices, and proper celebrations that are the most important parts of the interaction with God. Rather it is the broken spirit, the heart that intends to raise God to his proper place in our lives.
Perhaps an example would help. In 2 Chronicles 30, King Hezekiah of Judah calls all of the descendants of Israel to partake in the Passover, including those from the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This is important because this memorial which commemorates the beginning of God’s claiming the people of Israel as his own special nation hadn’t been celebrated in earnest since the time of Solomon. (Read: a couple hundred years.)
Though, this particular celebration of the Passover wouldn’t take place in the first month of the Hebrew calendar, like God had commanded Moses, because the priests were not properly cleansed. In order to perform one part of the celebration properly, they decided to go against God’s command of which day to set apart for the occasion. And no one worried about going against the exact specifics of which day God had commanded to celebrate because they understood that their pursuit of holiness made an allowance of this breach of commanded timing.
A little later in the passage, King Hezekiah learns that some of the people from the tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel had joined in the celebration without also being properly cleansed. They partook of the Passover without properly consecrating themselves. And this could be a problem.
However, Hezekiah prayed to God in verses 18-19 that God would pardon everyone who set their heart to seek God, even if they hadn’t followed every single regulation of cleansing. The pursuit of God superceded ritualistic purity.
The right heart meant more than the right actions. In the New Testament, Paul agrees with this statement in Romans 2:29 when he says that circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not the letter of the law.
And what did God do in 2 Chronicles 30? Verse 20 tells us that he heard the prayer of Hezekiah and healed the people. Imperfect people accepted by God because their pursuit of him was true.
This doesn’t negate our need for Jesus. Sin still needs to be dealt with. But we don’t have to be perfect to draw near to God. In our imperfections, he has made a way for us to draw near to him. And it is when our hearts are set on finding him that he will heal our imperfections as he draws us close to him.
Perfection isn’t required to partake of the work of Jesus, the true Passover lamb. Pursuit of God is.