The redeemed drunkard has this in his favour: He can look upon the altar and see the perfect flesh of a risen Lord for his salvation. The world can only offer a diseased liver. The repentant glutton can look to bread and wine for her salvation, while the world offers only the prospect of a diabetic coma. And the born again prostitute has the hopeful vision of a bride robed in purity, whereas the world can only envisage bad teeth and syphilis.
The problem is that a life without Christ has no reference point for perfection. It has no ideal to aim for and so it points to the horrible imperfections.
The gospel draws a man by its sheer beauty, while the world can only tell a man to flee. The world, rightly, tells us to run from disaster and despair, but it does not and cannot tell us where we should run to.
That’s not to say, and this might appear like I am about to contradict myself, but I’m not really, that’s not to say, that the world does not impress upon us it’s own visions of perfection.
Images of the perfect body, the perfect diet, the perfect hair, the perfect job, the perfect husband, the perfect school, etc, are foisted upon us daily and all carry the underlying assumption that we are somehow inadequate, which is perfectly true.
But all of this is undone by the mantra that we are to look inside ourselves and, “discover our own inner strength”. That the means of perfection is to “find the hero within” and that the “greatest love of all” can be found by looking somewhere inside my rusty colon.
The world acknowledges that we are inadequate and weak and that our situation is somewhat hopeless. But their conviction is not strong enough. Rejecting the perfection of Jesus Christ, they imagine there must still be some spark of divine power within us that will overcome the obstacles. And so their solution is equally inadequate, imperfect and weak and hopeless.
Step into anyone of the above realms, be it a school, a gym or a job and you will quickly discover that those worldy dreams of perfection are a perfect lie.
We are weaker than we know. More evil than we can imagine, and our situation is more hopeless than we are prepared to believe.
The world points to a dirty liver and boasts that it’s just being realistic, while the Christian is living out a fantasy. But the problem is that the world is not being real enough.
The dreamer thinks that mankind is basically good and that it’s his surrounding environment that is to blame for the bad. But the true realist is the one who recognises the futility of ever saving himself and so turns to a perfect Saviour.
And so, Chesterton,
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.
The gospel takes the weak, the frail, the hopeless and makes of them something beautiful, something enduring, something good.
It’s to men who see and mourn their imperfections and turn to the perfect man that Jesus gives, “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” (Isaiah 61:3).
Yes, Jesus does point out the imperfections in order that we may come to our senses and mourn. But He then draws all men through the power of a superior affection for that which is truly perfect.
Jesus is reality. He is enduring, joyful, soul-satisfying perfection.
Blessed are those who take refuge in Him.