Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Eric Demeter’s blog. It has been modified and republished here with permission.
In the classic 1972 novel “The Stepford Wives,” a town of lucky husbands land their perfect wives and live in a veritable utopia. The women are submissive, trustworthy, beautiful, and servant-like. They are also superb cooks and attentive moms. The only problem is that they are actually robots.
That’s too bad.
But seriously, who hasn’t pondered what their perfect spouse would be like? Mine would be a cross between Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the latest winner of the Ms. Universe Pageant. She’d be Mother Teresa in the sense that she would be an exemplar in faith, a model of servant-heartedness, and display an ever-compassionate spirit. Then, if this saint could merge her gorgeous inside with the physical exquisiteness from that of a beauty queen, she’d be one, remarkable amalgamation in my book.
Her name, by the way, would be Teresa Universe.
If you’re a Christian and value perfectionism, you’re on the right track, because God certainly does as well. In fact, He commands it. Jesus, during His famous Sermon on the Mount, charges the crowd to “Be perfect … as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
But Jesus isn’t describing a superficial or carnal perfection. The Greek word for “perfect” in this verse is “telioi,” and its true meaning is that of moral “maturity” or “wholeness.” In fact, the Book of James uses the same root word in 1:4 which states, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (italics added).
God’s idea of perfectionism, therefore, is in stark contrast with how it is portrayed in mainstream media or even in popular Christian culture. With this in mind, there are three foundational truths we can extract from Jesus’s command to “be perfect.”
First, as noted above, a Biblical perspective on perfectionism has everything to do with developing a solid character and has nothing to do with finding someone with a superhero or Barbie doll body.
Second, as Jesus states in Matthew 7, the challenge of maturity begins with us, not anyone else. Jesus unapologetically commands His followers to “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Thirdly, and subsequently, this new idea of perfectionism should compel us to modify criteria for a potential wife or husband. If that means writing a new list of salient characteristics, let it begin with the “Fruit of the Spirit” found Galatians 5:22-23.
What do I do now?
Reading Psalm 139:23-24 is the place we need to start if we are serious about exchanging the world’s values for God’s.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
As God reveals insights to us, we will have the privilege of repenting and renewing our minds as stated in Romans 12: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Fortunately, when we engage in this process of sanctification, it will not only free ourselves, but will also free others from meeting our own unrealistic expectations.
Yet, continuing to “cut and paste” a selfish wish-list of attributes for a future mate will only lead to despondence. Indeed, this theoretical person will never be real outside of our minds. Men: Teresa Universe just doesn’t exist. Moreover, we are all fallen people who will marry someone just as flawed, needy, and as unfinished as we are. And they will depend on God’s grace to fill in the flaws in their life just as much as we will need to.
Speaking to ladies, in particular, if your idea of the perfect man would be sewing together the face of Brad Pitt, the allure of George Clooney, the faith of Billy Graham, and the adventurous spirit of John Eldredge, you won’t get the perfect husband. Instead, your patchwork will be Frankenstein. Please don’t marry Frankenstein. He ravaged German villages, and people were scared of him.
The point is that true perfection, as defined by God, has the goal of exemplary Christian virtue as defined by Christ’s life. It will take more than a lifetime to attain. And if we are fortunate to find someone else who is going after the same goal, it will create a solid foundation for a godly relationship.