“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16–17
Today, I got the opportunity to preach a sermon on John 3:16 (the most well-known verse in the Bible) and how our usual understanding of it reflects characteristics of white supremacy culture. Yup, you read that right. It was heavy, but good.
The congregation I was preaching for is using this whole Lent season to confess the sin of white supremacy and name the ways it continues to impact our world and our lives. And one of the characteristics that we lifted up today was the idea of “perfection.”
Of course, we all know that perfection is a myth. There is no such thing as perfection. And yet… it is something we are all taught to strive for, basically from the time we are born. We are praised for everything good thing we do and every new step we achieve. As students, your whole world is focused on getting as close to perfect grades as possible, having the perfect social life, internships and jobs, in order to set you up for the perfect career…
Does that ring true for you? We have been conditioned to find our worth and our value in what we do and achieve and the praise those things bring us from others. As followers of Jesus, we know that that’s not true. Our worth and value come from God’s unconditional grace and love that is already within us, not from any outside source. Trying to be “perfect” is just a waste of time.
And I learned this week that the ideal of “perfection” is not just detrimental to our self-esteem and worth, but it is actually hurtful to us as a society. It is a racist and patriarchal tool of oppression which benefits those who have set the standards and made the rules (historically white men) to the detriment of everyone else. Perfectionism convinces us that there is a specific goal or standard to which we must conform, and if we don’t do it, we have failed.
And yet, so many of us CAN’T reach the goal because the GAME IS RIGGED. If you aren’t white, straight, and male, then you were never meant to reach those goals and standards. And this is a tool of white supremacy and patriarchy because it allows those who set the standards to judge and put down, well, everyone else.
So many of us, especially if you are white, hetero, and cisgender, have been caught up in this game for a long, long time, without even realizing it. And today, I give you permission to just stop. We aren’t perfect, God knows. We aren’t supposed to be perfect. We are just supposed to be OURSELVES, exactly who we are and who we were created to be. No more, no less. If you can live your life according to that standard, you will literally be making the world a better place for everyone. And learning how to live your own life with grace and peace, knowing that perfection does not exist and you can stop trying to achieve it.
That being said, I know you have exams to study for and final grades to think about. Sometimes, we do have to play the game a little bit. In all the bustle and stress, I hope you can take time to breath and remember that this moment and these experiences do not define you or your future. You will get through it and you will be OK. You’ve got this.
In Peace and Love,