Have you ever been called ‘perfect?’
Has anyone ever implied that ‘you’re just too good for words and you just seem to do things right – all the time?’
Has anyone ever placed you on some kind of pedestal based upon what they see in your life expecting that you’re that way all the time?
It’s the bane of the missionary life at times.
I’ll tell you that missionaries often discuss the crazy amount of unrealistic expectation that is placed upon us and our kids. Our spiritual life, married/single life, family life, ministry life and more are scrutinized through disproportionate lenses that seem to idolize and lionize. We would love people to see us as regular people doing regular things where we’ve been planted with God in mind. There is no way on God’s great, big planet earth that we are the kind of perfect that others assume of us.
Every single missionary I know and love would tell you that absolute perfection is unattainable. No amount of strength and determination of the human spirit and will can propel any one of us to the apex of perfection that has been imagined of us.
It’s just not possible.
Missionaries are not perfect people.
In fact, there are no perfect missionaries.
I know I am not.
What I will claim to be true is that we are living life the best we know how in honor of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. We are a work in progress just like everyone else.
John wrote these words in recognition of this truth a long, long, long time ago:
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope purifies himself, just as He is pure.
New International Version, 1 John 3: 2-3
What I appreciate about these words is that there is an understanding that we are a work in progress in Christ. We cannot overcome a sinful life or save ourselves on our own. No amount of effort will ever make us holy, righteous, or pure. No one attains sinless perfection on earth because of who we are or what we have done – even one who has declared Christ as Savior and is living life for Him.
We are declared righteous through the mercy of Jesus Christ and his sanctifying work on the cross.
So, why do people often misjudge missionaries as ‘perfect and holy?’
Well, let’s just start by scratching out the word perfect in your assessment of us.
We are not perfect.
However, there is definite momentum to exhibit the righteousness, holiness and purity we see so beautifully exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ. We aim to live life in a way that recognizes the constant, abiding presence of Jesus Christ within us. We embrace a persevering, sanctifying state of purity that is offered to us in Christ. We aspire to become more and more like Jesus and we understand that this process will not be complete until we meet Him face to face one day. Honestly, we cannot reach this hallowed place without Christ bringing us there. Without Christ, holiness is impossible.
Dependent upon His Divine care and aid, we live under the influence of the hope of Christ.
I love that!
So much so, that I will say it again:
We live under the influence of the hope of Jesus Christ.
What is this influence of hope?
Hope spurs us towards Christ and inspires us to live a holy life.
Hope encourages us to be pure.
Pure is the Greek transliterated word hagnos. Hagnos means to be free from sin, pure, clean, innocent, and sacred. What I found so exciting is that hagnos comes from the root word hagios. Having studied hagios earlier, I know that hagios is the Greek transliterated word for saint or holy one. In other words, everyone who embraces the hope of Christ is identified as one of His saints – His holy people.
To continue, hope helps us embrace the joyful, confident expectation of salvation in Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of His Kingdom.
Hope assures us that our redemption will be complete when we see Jesus Christ face-to-face.
To partake and experience the nature of Christ and have relationship with God, we embrace and submit to this wondrous influence of hope. We seek purity of heart, soul, and mind. We ask Him to overpower and defeat every aspect of sin in our lives day by day by day. We strive to be about the business of loving God and loving others and experience His mercy and grace as we do so.
We’re not perfect in any of that.
Not at all.
Instead, we live according to the renewing grace and sanctifying Spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He grounds us in His promises and He influences us with His hope. Our eyes focus upon His Kingdom to come and not the cares of this world.
Perhaps this is why the perfect word comes up so much. Maybe, and it’s just a conjecture, maybe, people see missionaries being more focused upon, more influenced by, and more engaged with the things that Jesus cares about, than the worries and cares of this world. They see the missionary life that is influenced by the hope of Jesus Christ – and they categorize that as something perfect, splendid and praiseworthy.
So, as an encouragement, my friends, the next time you may be tempted to call a missionary or anyone else in the ministry world for that matter – perfect – rephrase that perfect thought. Instead, re-frame any picture you have of perfect missionaries and consider us as regular people doing regular things under the influence of the hope of Jesus Christ.
Because, that’s me!
I’m under the influence of hope!
Like I said, I love this heart conviction! And unlike the word, perfect – I won’t shudder with horror if you ever say that I’m living under the influence of the hope of Jesus Christ. I’ll embrace that compliment and be humbled by it. It’s what I want to be all about!
How about you?