Anyone who knows me well knows that I connect more to G-d in the Old Testament than incarnate in Jesus Christ. For a while, I clung to these older texts because I preferred His severity.
At the time I was being rebellious, disobedient and loathsome. I was beginning to hate who I was becoming but I hated G-d more. I sympathized with Dorian Gray when he said, “There [is] purification in punishment. Not ‘Forgive us our sins,’ but ‘Smite us for our iniquities,’ should be the prayer of a man to a most just God.” I wanted punishment. I wanted G-d’s wrath, not Her love. Maybe what I really wanted most was an excuse to abandon Him. I wanted to believe that She was loathsome because to turn ones back on a malevolent god is more righteous than to serve one.
In the Old Testament I sought a sever and unforgiving god. Instead, I found a G-d of mercy, long suffering and kindness. I fell in love with G-d through the words of Her prophets as His merciful pleadings balanced Her justice. His tenderness was more scandalous than Her wrath.
I also found solace in the men and women who G-d blesses and chooses to work through in the Old Testament. They are so imperfect, often disobedient. Even Moses, who saw G-d face to face, and David, who was a man after G-d’s own heart, behaved rather badly at times. Jeremiah was a prophet against his will. Despite all of their flaws, G-d loves them and uses them in amazing ways. So the same would be true for me.
I wanted to love Him but not surrender my life completely to Her. I wanted to be mostly obedient but not completely. In the Old Testament, G-d is more lenient. His standards are more reasonable. Jesus asks for much more. Jesus asks for us to seek perfection.
I don’t like the idea of perfection. It makes me think of a friend of mine’s obsession with being completely fit and striving for a 4.0 GPA and competing with the Jones. It makes me think of women who won’t play in a dress or walk barefoot with tights on. It makes me think of the kid who knows exactly what to write to get an A but doesn’t know how to write something meaningful for himself. That’s how I define pursuing perfection, seeking to look good instead of live broadly. I can’t do that. It doesn’t mean anything to me and could rob me of what does matter.
This season of Lent is bringing me back to Jesus. As I’m listening to sermons from multiple Pastors and reading through the end of John, I’m being reminded that the perfection that Jesus asks us to seek isn’t like my friend’s. God isn’t asking me to look perfect to others but to be perfect for Him. Her perfection looks completely different. His perfection is dynamic and meaningful. She’s not obsessed with how pure I look but how meaningfully I live.
God’s perfection is about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. God’s perfection doesn’t exclude speaking difficult truths to others out of love. God’s perfection doesn’t exclude feasting when there is a reason to feast. God’s perfection doesn’t ask me to be tame just to be temperate.