Perfect?

I’ve got a confession to make: I’m a 90’s music junkie.

Maybe that knocks me down a few notches in your eyes, but it’s the truth. When I’m on the road for an extended period of time, or when I’m stressed, or when I just feel a need to let my mind wander, or even when I just need to drown out the noise of the world to focus on something for a bit, it’s not usually Christian music that’s flowing through my headphones or stereo.

It’s the music of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., U2, Counting Crows, and others.

And sometimes, it’s a talented, angst-filled female vocalist by the name of Alanis Morissette.

I was listening to her debut album (“Jagged Little Pill”) again this week, following a difficult visit with a doctor. It was nothing major, just a routine follow-up visit for an ear condition I’ve battled for seven years now that has left me with slightly below normal hearing. But I was frustrated once again with the same results I’ve seen for the past three years: no improvement, no new medical procedures that can help… in a nutshell, feeling a little hopeless for anything but the frustrating status quo.

So I was probably in the proper mood to listen to Alanis. I mean, angst is her thing, right?

I skipped the first couple songs on the playlist on the way home. I’ve listened to the album plenty of times, and I knew I really didn’t want to hear “You Oughta Know”. Aside from the fact that song is WAY overdone at this point in time, it’s got some lyrics that are pretty explicit. Not something I really wanted to hear or expose myself to.

So I started with track 3: “Perfect”. (Click here to listen if you’d like.)

“Perfect” is essentially a three minute lyrical lesson in bad parenting. It’s a musical montage of messages you REALLY don’t want your kids to hear, either directly in word or from observing your attitudes and actions.

“Sometimes is never quite enough.
If you’re flawless, then you’ll win my love.
Don’t forget to win first place,
Don’t forget to keep that smile on your face.

Be a good boy.
Try a little harder.
You’ve got to measure up
And make me prouder.

How long before you screw it up?
How many times do I have to tell you to hurry up?
With everything I do for you
The least you can do is keep quiet!

Be a good girl.
You’ve gotta try a little harder.
That simply wasn’t good enough
To make us proud.

I’ll live through you,
I’ll make you what I never was!
If you’re the best, then maybe so am I
Compared to him, compared to her!
I’m doing this for your own [expletive] good,
You’ll make up for what I blew!
What’s the problem? Why are you crying?

Be a good boy.
Push a little farther now.
That wasn’t fast enough
To make us happy.
We’ll love you just the way you are,
If you’re perfect.”

The song is so amazingly applicable to the lesson on grace we heard Pastor Kyle preach on Sunday. It’s the antithesis, not just of grace, but of everything God truly is.

Yet for some reason, these are the messages that we tend to believe about God:

“If you’re flawless, then you’ll win my love.”
“Be a good boy. Try a little harder.”
“You’ve got to measure up and make me prouder.”
“Be a good girl. You’ve gotta try a little harder.”
“That simply wasn’t good enough to make me proud.”
“I’ll love you just the way you are, if you’re perfect.”

All of these things are lies!

All of these things are messages Satan wants us to believe.

All of these messages, believed at a heart level and playing out in our lives, keep us from truly experiencing grace.

These are NOT the messages God has for us!

You see, grace, loosely defined, is undeserved reward. In the context of our faith, it’s being saved through a relationship with Jesus, not because of anything we’ve done, but IN SPITE of everything we’ve done.

We can’t earn salvation. Our works. Our words. Our deeds. Our acts of kindness. Our acts of charity. Bravery. Heroism. Love.

None of the things we have done truly matter.

God loves us just the way we are. In spite of our imperfection.

Romans 5:6-8 make this clear:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

While we were still weak. While we were still messed up. While we were unworthy. While we were still sinners.

At THAT time, Jesus died for us. At THAT time, He loved us enough to do what for most of us is completely unthinkable.

Dying for someone who is COMPLETELY undeserving. Further, doing so to enable the gift of salvation to be made freely available to a world chock full of undeserving people!

THAT, friends, is grace.

That’s what God offers to each of us.

That’s the message of hope we have for a world that believes the messed up messages of the song shared above.

You don’t have to be perfect. God’s grace is available through Jesus. And it’s enough.

As a church, this is a message we must truly “get”. We’ve got to be people that “get” grace. We’ve got to understand it. Experience it. Live it. Depend on it. Take it to heart. Be transformed by it.

Because people that GET grace GIVE grace.

And that’s what the world needs. Both the love and acceptance that come from people willing to love others as Christ loved us, and the extension of the message of hope IN Jesus that we alone can offer because we’ve experienced it firsthand.

People we care about aren’t going to get this elsewhere. This kind of hope simply isn’t offered anywhere else.

So are we willing to be that kind of people?

That kind of church?

People that GET grace? People that GIVE grace?

People that bring hope?

We don’t have to be perfect to do this… we just have to care enough to do something with the grace Jesus has given us.

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[NOTE: This post originally appeared on the Renovation Voices section of the Renovation Church website. I serve as an elder at Renovation, and write fairly regularly on topics relevant to our church as a member and leader there.]