The Fear of Imperfection

By: Hunter Jones
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one…For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…” (Romans 3:10-12, 22-25, ESV).

Tears spring to my eyes and a shout catches in my throat each time I read these words. But these are not tears of shame or sorrow, and this is no shout of self-defense at Scripture’s refining words. These are tears of relief, and this is a shout of praise.

For the heavy laden, perfectionist heart, these words are a healing balm. In them, Jesus draws us close, heaves the heavy burdens we have placed on ourselves from our shoulders, and whispers, “For while [you] were still weak, at the right time [ I ] died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6, ESV).

For word-lovers like me, you might notice something strange about this verse. It’s redundant. But because Jesus does not make mistakes, when He repeats Himself, I’ve found it best to lean in – to pause and wonder at what He could mean. 

This particular verse uses repetition, both directly and indirectly, to emphasize a point in time. The verse states “For while you were still weak” and then clarifies that phrase by adding “at the right time.” But the verse’s emphasis on this “right time” does not end there. The verse also relies on what we already know about God to emphasize its point. Because we know God is perfect, we know His timing is perfect, therefore stating “at the right time” is not necessary. This verse causes us to ask, “Jesus always did things at the right time, so what’s so important about his timing here?”

Jesus’ timing is circled again and again in this verse because our God wants to be perfectly clear: Jesus came for us, to die and atone for our sins, to make us perfect in His love, “while we were still weak” – while we were still called “ungodly.” The “right time” for Him to die was while we were in this broken state. Not before. Not after. He came in the midst of our absolute rebellion–in the midst of our inescapable imperfection. Jesus lived the perfect life we could never live, and, dying on the cross, He atoned perfectly for our sins, and resurrected to defeat death (the death that was the penalty for our imperfection) forever.

Friends, our fear of imperfection has already come to fruition. We are not perfect. We never were, and apart from Christ (and on this side of eternity) we never will be.

We must lay down our pursuit of perfection in ourselves, or in anything or anyone else this side of heaven, and we must trust fully in the absolute perfection of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – because to fear imperfection is to deny the perfect atonement of the cross.

And while learning to trust fully in Jesus’ perfect death may be a lifelong (and perhaps difficult) journey, this is the beauty of the gospel. This is why tears of joy and a shout of praise well-up in me when I read about our absolute imperfection in Romans 3. Because we are indeed imperfect, but the beauty of Jesus meets us in our imperfection and beckons us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus, in absolute perfection, has come. Let’s rest in Him.
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