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Less Than Perfect

by Robert Berendt
Photo by David Pisnoy on Unsplash
 

A short time ago I had a conversation with one of my sons, who is a pathologist. I expressed a concern about the stress in his work. My advice was to relax a little and not be too fussy. “We’re just humans and we all make mistakes,” I said.

He responded, “Dad, I can’t afford to make a mistake in my work. Lives depend on my decisions and thousands of dollars may be squandered if I am wrong.” The same applies to my daughter-in-law who also is a pathologist. Their comments are those of professionals. When they sign their names to an examination, their reputations are also at stake. It did not take long to understand the profound truth in their words and I was happy to know that there are people like these in responsible positions.

We are all concerned about errors and mistakes (or we certainly should be). We have many people with jobs that demand as much perfection as is humanly possible. Just think of pilots, air controllers, surgeons, truck drivers, bus drivers and others who are responsible for human lives. If the captain of the Titanic had been more responsible as a professional, many hundreds of lives would have been spared. No one wants to hear an entrusted person say, “Oops, I goofed.” That “oops” could be fatal for you or someone else.

A speaker once said, “If a person is not making any mistakes, they are not breathing.” There may be some truth in this statement, but we all do know that we can do better in becoming error free. It is all too easy to slip into sloppy habits in the work place or in our lives and put a “less than perfect” effort into a task. Our society seems to be slipping towards carelessness and shoddy work. We see it in the way people dress, the crude and careless words that come from their mouths, and an attitude of bending rules. Many standards are reaching all-time lows. Finding capable and conscientious employees is a growing problem.

In Matthew 5:48 we read the astonishing instruction Jesus gave. He said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Is the full import of these words burned into our minds leading to the constant minute-by-minute monitoring of our words and deeds? Jesus went on to say in Matthew 12:36, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken.”

Now this is getting serious. We will not be able to just say “oops” when we stand before God. We can all think of words that have come out of our mouths that we wish we could take back.

The people of the Corinthian Church had become careless and allowed errors of behaviour and belief to alter their perspective. They had been so intent on tolerance that their standards of conduct plummeted. In correcting the Church, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” There is little room for the lack of effort towards perfection in Paul. He goes on in verse 10 and 11 to say, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this Godly sorrow has produced in you; what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.”

There is a period of time each year in which God commands His people to examine themselves. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 13:5 that each person is to examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith – “test yourselves,” he wrote. The Passover is this season. It is a time to reflect and consider our past year. It is the season to focus on the tremendous price that Christ paid for our sins – and to go and sin no more. This requires understanding of what sin is.

1 John 3:4-6 states: “Everyone who sins breaks the law, in fact, sin is lawlessness, but you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins, and in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.”

Clearly God’s law defines sin and mankind comes under a death sentence for sinning. Adam and Eve learned that lesson and, in the very next generation, Cain and others also learned the heartache and problems that sin brings. In Genesis 6:5, God exclaims that there was evil present everywhere on earth. Mankind had grown careless and lawless, far from the perfection of Godly standards.

We all make errors. Hopefully they will be small ones. We can and must learn from our errors so that we will become more perfect. The first time a student gets into the cockpit of an airplane, you can be sure he or she will make some mistakes. Correction by an instructor and self-correction soon mitigates these mistakes. There are fewer and fewer errors when we seriously focus – but that is the rub – we do need to put our mind to the task at hand.

The ability to do better in all avenues of life is definitely within our capacity. Whether we determine to use that ability or not, dictates the outcome. There was a time when people took great pride in their work. They respected themselves and their reputation.

The habit of correcting errors while young instills the life-saving habit of self-correction. Self-respect is built on doing a task well and knowing that your “signature” is also your reputation. It comes when you know you do a good job.

The next time you take a flight, think about this: How “perfect” do you want the pilot to be? Is “close” good enough? If you’ve ever had surgery, how free of error do you want the surgeon to be? Is it good enough that he takes something out that is in the vicinity of the appendix when you have appendicitis? When you drive home after work, are you satisfied with people who can just manage to keep the car on the road – or are you happier when people drive courteously and carefully?

The answers are obvious. It’s up to all of us, as Christians, to go and do better.

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