“The error at the root of all false ideas of perfection is this: it is rating our behaviour before God higher than our relation to God-putting conduct before faith, deeds before trust, work before worship...- PT Forsyth (as quoted in “Renewal As a Way of Life” by Richard Lovelace)
We are not saved by the love we exercise, but by the love we trust...
The soul's true and universal perfection is a faith. It is a perfection of attitude rather than of achievement, of relation more than of realization, of truth more than of behaviour…. Christian perfection is the perfection not of conduct, character, or creed, but of faith. It is not a matter of our behaviour before God the Judge, but of our relation to God the Saviour."
I grew up in church.
I was that church kid who couldn’t wait for the church service to be over so we could play football in the parking lot, or on rainy or cold days, who played hide-and-seek games crawling under the benches after church services. I was that kid who was there whenever the doors were opened because my parents were involved in pretty much everything, like small church families often are.
So when I came of age, and started to consider my own relationship to the Lord around age 11, Christianity to me was a lot about “doing.” You could tell which folks were the “real” believers at church, the real Christians, by how involved they were. Someone who just showed up for service and then jetted right away probably wasn’t following the Lord like we were.
So when I received Christ and started considering myself a Believer, being a Christian was about what I did. I joined the worship team and sang, because that’s what Christians do. I was in youth group and went on missions trips because that’s what Christians do. I gave 10% of my income as a teenager because that’s what Christians do.
But to Forsyth’s point, John 17 says this:
This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent -Jesus Christ.John 17:3 CSB (emphasis mine)
So this thing about perfection in the Christian life and finding eternal life isn’t about what we do. That doesn’t mean we sit idle in our living rooms and do nothing. We were created to do things (Eph 2:10). But our perfection, our Christian maturity doesn’t come from our doing. It comes by faith. The “why” behind our doing. The “who” behind our doing.
The mark of a mature Christian is not how much they serve, but how much they stay focused on the bad news of sin and God’s judgement and the simultaneous good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
We are not saved by the love we exercise, but by the love we trust.