Have you ever seen the movie Mary Poppins? Early in the movie, when Mary Poppins first met young Michael and Jane, she pulled out a magical tape measure to see how they measured up. According to the tape measure, Michael was “extremely stubborn and suspicious” and Jane was “rather inclined to giggle and [didn’t] put things away.” But then the children asked if they could measure Mary Poppins.
Their new nanny stood tall as the children stretched out the tape measure. When they finished, Mary Poppins looked at the line for her height and said, “Just as I thought: Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.”
If you were able to use Mary Poppins’ magical tape measure, how would you measure up? Would it point out some glaring weaknesses in your life or would it say you are practically perfect in every way?
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stretched out his tape measure to show us exactly how we measure up. “Be perfect,” he tells us, “as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). That is the standard God uses to measure us: perfection.
Have you ever felt like that wasn’t fair? Sometimes to our minds God can seem like a cranky, unrealistic teacher who refuses to be satisfied with anything less than 100%. I mean, what’s so bad about getting 95%? That’s still an A, right? That’s practically perfect, isn’t it? Why does God demand complete perfection?
God demands complete perfection because that is what God created man to be. Only that which is perfect can stand before him. Our perfect God can’t and shouldn’t settle for anything less.
As human beings, though, we’re happy to settle. Every day we find ways to lower our standards. We say, “Sure, I may be having sex before marriage, but only with someone I love.” We say, “Yeah, I may lose my temper sometimes, but that doesn’t make me a bad guy.” We say, “Nobody’s perfect. Good enough is good enough.” But good enough isn’t good enough for God. Practically perfect isn’t perfect enough for God. Only that which is completely perfect can stand in his presence.
We haven’t done that, have we? We don’t measure up. We don’t even come close. Thankfully, God in his love sent Jesus to be our substitute. Jesus wasn’t practically perfect in every way. He was completely perfect in every way. He took your place and then he allowed God the Father to punish him for all your imperfections.
Because of Jesus, you don’t have to be perfect to go to heaven. You are forgiven. Forgiveness, however, doesn’t mean God lowers his standards. God still wants and expects complete perfection.
Though you’ll never achieve it here on earth, put perfection as your goal. No pressure. You don’t have to do it. Jesus was perfect in your place. You are forgiven. Just don’t use forgiveness as an excuse to lower your standards. Don’t settle for being practically perfect. Be perfect.