Monday, January 30, 2012

Practice makes perfect

Text for the week: Matthew 5:48

Perfection is something we all strive for, and we even talk about it when it comes to our faith.  What exactly is perfection?  When Scripture says we are to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, is that even possible?

Those are great questions, with centuries of debate behind them.  That being said, I’m not going to try to tackle them here.  But, if holiness is the goal, how do we get there? 

The verse referred to above is found in Matthew chapters 5-7, in the Sermon on the Mount, and can be confusing and haunting at the same time.  Jesus is teaching on the “way we live” in Matthew 5:48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  This is in the context of the command to love those who hate and persecute you.  Be perfect in the way that God is perfect?  Who can do that?

It’s another one of those verses, like doing greater things than these (John 14:12), that we put off at times, not knowing what to do with it.  Is Jesus serious?  Well, what if he was?  How does that affect the way you and I live?

I think the answer to that is found in the question.  In our search to figure out what perfection means, and how to be holy, we need to come to grips with this way to live.  Maybe for some, we need to even admit there is a way to live, or that the way we live matters.  We cannot “make ourselves holy” or “earn our salvation,” but the work that God is doing in our heart is expressed by how we live.  

In chapel last Wednesday, I told you that I hate to practice. Practice takes discipline.  I quit playing the cornet because I didn’t want to practice anymore.  The same was true for basketball.  I never liked all the drills that went along with the teaching of the game — I just wanted to play! So, I was never much of a basketball player because I didn’t put the time in to practice it.

You know as well as I do that practice is necessary.  And in order to practice, you need to be disciplined.

It’s why J. J. Reddick was one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the history of college basketball — because he shot 300, three-pointers every day after a 2 ½-hour practice.

It’s also why Luke Donald is one of the most dominant golfers in the world — because he hits golf balls off the practice tees well into the evening, after playing an exhausting round of 18 holes.

It’s why Yo-Yo Ma is considered one of the greatest cellists in history — because of the countless hours he practices scales on his cello.

If perfection is the mandate, then practice is a necessity.  There is a way to live.  How’s your practice?