Yes by all means you should live a “perfect” life.

Matthew 5:48 [widescreen]


n. – the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.

Ever met someone who was a spiritual perfectionist? Or someone who lived their spiritual life in trying to be so perfect they tried to manage, control, or manipulate their life to project they “have it all together?” Yea I’ve never meant one either (cough cough). Yes I have been guilty of this in my life.

This word “perfection” in the above Scripture has often been misunderstood and even twisted down through the years. Its even been dumbed down and included on bumper stickers like “Christians aren’t perfect; only forgiven” (insert child like sneer). Even in this bumpersticker a noble minded Christian is furthering the misunderstanding of this word.

This verse has been used by Christians who tend to be legalistic in nature. I used to They use it to justify their self-righteousness and in doing so tarnish and twist the original meaning and context of this word.

I used to live and think that to make the Father proud, to do this “Christian thing” right, I had to be perfect. I had to analyze my daily list of do’s and don’ts. I had to have all my stuff together. I had to ensure that each thing was lining up for my moral life so that what I was projecting on the inside really was perfect just like Jesus says. Thankfully, I have come to understand what Jesus was saying.

A Harmful Word or An Unfortunate Translation?

Kathleen Norris, a famous New York Times bestselling author said something fascinating in her book “Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith.” She has this to say about the “disease of perfection”:

“Perfectionism is one of the scariest words I know. It is a marked characteristic of contemporary American culture, a serious psychological affliction that makes people too timid to take necessary risks and causes them to suffer when, although they’ve done the best they can, their efforts fall short of some imaginary, and usually unattainable, standard. Internally it functions as a form of myopia, a preoccupation with self-image that can stunt emotional growth.” Amazing Grace, 55.

Norris is right on. This is a frightening verse and word for many of us. Thankfully when we look at the Christian landscape it is not so much a scary word that has harmed us but rather a scary translation. What often happens in the transmission between the Greek text into English is that we impose certain meanings on the original language that were not present in the original context. This is one of those times. On this one, we are imposing our American and Western understanding of perfection as opposed to a first century understanding of τέλειος which when transcribed is teleios.

This is usually what our concept of perfection in American society and even the American church looks like. Sadly, we’re missing it.


Perfection according to Jesus

Teleios, in the way Jesus used it and in this context refers not to a purity that is free from flaw or garnishment but rather a word that denotes a completeness, maturity, full-grown, and developed. Kind of like the perfect Cabernet wine. Is a perfect wine one that is bottled perfectly, fermented perfectly, and free from any imperfection? Some would say yea. However the majority would say the perfect wine is one that has aged well. Over time. One that matured. One that has grown complete with time. This stands in serious contention with our imposed meaning which usually involves setting forth an impossible goal, living without flaw, and so on.

This certainly does not give one license to live without holiness, morality, and a certain godliness that (along with our actions) marks us as different from others who do not follow Christ. But understood in the proper context, holiness is part of maturity. A mature follower of Jesus will understand that we lose certain liberties in following Jesus. Certain actions or ways of thinking that without the knowledge of Christ we were free to partake in, are left/ should be left behind us. These things should be realized through walking with the Holy Spirit. Not the legalistic pressure of others around you.

To be “perfect” in the way Jesus is calling us to be in this context means to make room for growth and to do so on purpose. It is to make the necessary changes which bring about maturity or ripeness. As Norris says, “To mature is to lose adolescent self-consciousness so as to be able to make a gift of oneself, as a parent, as teacher, friend, or spouse.” (Amazing Grace, 56) In other words, to mature, to be perfect, is to leave behind our childish ways so that we may prosper in any given role or position God has us in.

Jesus embodied this. In fact Jesus gives us an amazing window into what perfection really is. For him it was being mature enough to give yourself to others. Whatever we have or whoever we are, no matter how little it seems, is something that can be given and shared with others around us. That requires a mature perspective that as followers of Jesus we aren’t here for ourselves.

We are here to draw everyone around us to the love and joy of knowing Christ. That is the glorious summation of our lives as followers of Christ. It is one that is glorious, adventurous, and perfect. Whether married, single, with kids, no kids, or any other situation–we are to live this life. A life clinging to this world, status, material goods, or anything else we try and fill that God-sized hole with would be an imperfect and immature life. One that is stunted by the frivolous things of a society that has lost its way in the tragic depths of shallowness.

Understanding and Aiming for the right kind of Perfection

Life is to be lived in the perfection Jesus calls us to live in. A perfection marked by growth. Not a lie of “having it all together.” A perfection marked by honest and authentic faith. Not a shallow veneer of sinlessness and self-righteousness. A perfection marked by the tension of seeking holiness and acknowledging brokenness. Not an embarrassing and harmful projection that one has already arrived.

In Ephesians Paul says, “in whom [Christ] the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” We are that structure. The church. We are the ones growing, maturing, perfect-ing…

May all of us be driven by this daily desire to grow in Him.

Let it be our prayer that in all of our hearts what drives us is not a worldly image of perfection but rather a Christlike pursuit of growth and maturity.

How about you? How do you understand perfection? Is it hard to break away from societies concept of perfection  and embrace the biblical one? Why or why not?


Red Cups, Refugees, and the Redeemed

sccdred cups

Facebook. Oy vey!

I can’t believe I am about to say the following: “I miss the Facebook days of duck face selfies, cat vine videos, and numerous other “statuses” that were mindless and somewhat funny. I know they are still there but they are harder to spot these days. And to be clear,  I am fully aware of awesome power that is at our finger tips which is social media. It gives a voice (digital letters) to the voiceless (digital letterless). It serves as a place for people to bicker and argue lovingly dialog and share their personal view points and perspectives on everything from the weather to their pets to their sports teams and even world events. Even on things like plastic red colored cups and the fate of millions of refugees.

While I just complained about Facebook I must also admit that it is a fascinating window into the minds and hearts of many people. As a pastor the one thing I always try to do is simply pay attention. Pay attention to the hurts in people’s lives. The joys they celebrate. The fears, temptations, and trials they  express. With all of these things, my response as a pastor is to then call attention. To help align their situations and dispositions with the will of the Father. To help them bring their frustrations and/or inquiries to the feet of Christ and simply ask, “What now Jesus?” To join them in looking through the Scriptures and desperately plead, “Holy Spirit! Guide us and help us navigate these rough waters!”

I’ve been paying attention these last few weeks to news feeds, twitter feeds, and all things media. I’ve noticed a few things that I am absolutely positive you have noticed as well. For example: There was a lot of frustration and uproar over red “anti-Christmas”  Starbucks cups by virtually no one (save a few). And then there were people mad at those who were mad about the red “anti-Christmas” cups which was really no one. This confusing mind game that played out via social media also revealed something else: What Christians really believe is important.

Multitudes of Christians coming on Facebook were exclaiming what really matters because of the supposed Starbucks outrage. “Matthew 25! House the homeless! Clothe the naked! Feed the hungry! Share the gospel!” These and many like it were exclamations made by Christians who in an uproar over the seemingly, albeit confusing, scenario playing out that Christians were mad about red cups.

No less than a week later social media is in an uproar again. Many of these very same people, celebrities, groups, Christian artists, christian leaders and so on were now exclaiming how we must refuse asylum to refugees amidst the global crisis that is ISIS. Or that we should be selective in our process and only take in Christian refugees.

Am I the only one who sees a paradox here? On one day… we refine our Christian priorities like there is no tomorrow, as a response to invisible people mad about red cups. In the same week when tragedy hits (in multiple places, not just Paris) and the issue of refugee asylum comes to the fore and we completely forget what we just affirmed in regards to what Christians believe to be priority.

What was, “Matthew 25! House the homeless! Clothe the naked! Feed the hungry! Share the gospel!” descended into “Close all borders! We’re scared! Say no to those who are being murdered, raped, tortured, persecuted, oppressed, and so on.” Why? Because it might involve r-i-s-k. There may be danger involved in helping, housing, and receiving the displaced, the refugee, and the religiously diverse. Welcome to Christianity. And all this time some of us thought it was a domesticated comfortable club that makes us feel good. C’mon now. Jesus died for something much more meaningful and beautiful than that.

And so, a few things to ponder…

We can’t forget that we are pilgrims, sojourners, aliens, and strangers in a foreign land.

Allow me to explain. We, as in followers of Jesus, are not United States citizens first. We are citizens of a different Kingdom. Members of the Kingdom of God who happened to be citizens in the country of the United States. A nation in which I love and appreciate and am thankful for. But we are immersed into this physical space and time to usher in a different society. Not through legislation, not through voting, not through hash tags, not through rants, and definitely not through societal accommodation (Christmas not xmas, reindeer not blank red, etc). We usher in this supernatural Kingdom through marginal operation (helping the misfits, unwanted, lower class, and any and all in the margins of our society). In other words, we the church, exist on the front lines doing the unpopular, standing up for the hurting, dying, suffering. Why? Because that is our identity.

So if this society wants to do away with expressions of Christmas, or become ultra politically correct, the body of Christ shouldn’t lose sleep over it. Our identity is not wrapped up in the trajectory of this society, country, or culture. When it comes to what moves us, what drives us, what impacts us–it should never be the things of this world but only the heart of the Father.  Peter says it perfectly regarding our present state as Christians in the world:

1 Peter 1:17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. NIV

1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, since you are immigrants and strangers in the world, I urge that you avoid worldly desires that wage war against your lives. CEB

And so, its important to remember that at our very base and core, we know our identity as members of a different Kingdom. If we get this wrong then the lens we see our world through will be tainted, disfigured, and confused.

Being a Christian means we embrace risk and do not fear death.

One of the biggest reasons being thrown around for closing our borders and rejecting Syrian and Iraqi refugees is because it is a “Trojan Horse” tactic of ISIS or ISIL. Heres the reality:they are probably right. It very likely could be. Because of the supposed risk does that mean that we as Christians advocate that the hungry, dying, suffering, raped, oppressed, stay within their borders? Of course not! Risk is part of the reality we live with. Your life is not your own. Your safety went out the window when you chose to follow Jesus. You are a lamb among wolves. You are a stranger in a foreign land pointing the way to the hope of Christ.

As a citizen of the United States, I get the rationale. I get what “should” happen. I understand the State is not the church and the country has certain responsibilities to protect its own. But remember, we as followers of Jesus are members of a different Kingdom. And so our energy is going to be geared towards the redemptive and the gospel. Things like, “Bring them here so we can serve them, share with them, and help them. Clothe them, visit them, give them value. Protect them. Empower them.” Yes screen them. Yes do everything you can to ensure there is no ulterior agenda. I am not advocating mindless and naive actions. But by all means, as much as possible, let us be people who open our arms wide even if it would cost us our life or be a risk. Is that not what Christ did? Should we refuse to house the homeless, feed all the hungry, or any other act of love and justice because they could rob us, hurt us, or deceive us? Of course not. With wisdom we continue to serve and love but we ought to never refuse because of risk.

Lest we forget, our very Lord and Savior Jesus was a refugee. Yes, God was a refugee. Check out Matthew 2. So perhaps we could say, “rejecting the marginalized, the refugee, the displaced would be rejecting Christ.”

The way forward involves something more than Facebook.

Lastly, the church, Christian culture, humanity, has made it extremely easy to “help” others. With everything from hashtags, to profile pics, to writing checks–we may have handicapped the church’s creativity and imagination of how to bring the Kingdom of God here and now. Could it be that this is our finest hour? That the state of the U.S., the world, necessitates the church to rise up? To remove the shackles? The lethargy? The comfort?

As some have said, this is this generation’s “holocaust.” Look at the articles. Talk to people from the middle of this refugee crisis. Lets open our eyes and hearts and put faces with the term “refugees.” Whether they be Christian or Muslim or any other religion or even ethnicity. Whether they are from Syria, Somalia, Algeria, Turkey, or any other country. They are people. They are families. They are marriages. They are children, elderly, and helpless.


When we can better empathize with these individuals, getting creative in how we assist them (or anyone for that matter) gets much easier. For instance, I know a family that is welcoming a student from one of these countries on a student visa who is going to go to a local college. They are rescuing her from the war torn region and giving her a roof and future. Why? Because their heart is broken for this girl and her situation in Damascus, Syria. I have a dear friend on the ground working hard to bring the gospel into war torn Syria who is researching on how our church can  creatively help, serve, and turn the tide of hate and violence. The second I get wind of practical ways we can get involved (for us as HighMillers and others outside of the church I lead) I will bring it right here.

In conclusion, should we pray? Yes. Should we donate? Yes. Should we do small things that show solidarity? Yes. Should we stop at that? No. This is not just about the Syrian refugee crisis. Its also about the U.S. Veteran crisis. Its about the mental illness, homeless, and many other domestic issues as well. Our hearts ought to be big enough for loving and serving both those local and abroad. Our creativity and imagination is boundless.

I understand. This issue is/ can be complicated for Christians living in the U.S. There are some amazing articles out there about this topic. Be well read. Think critically. Pray before you think/type. I want to encourage you. No matter the topic, take a look at how you are arriving at your decisions and dispositions.

Are you spending more time in Scripture than watching Fox News? Are you spending more time on your knees rather than reading Politico and other Left leaning blogs? News, articles, and other forms of media aren’t bad per se. But a disproportionate consumption of these without Scripture and prayer means an identity crisis is sure to ensue.

As a follower of Jesus cling to Scripture and the guidance of his Spirit. Isn’t that what the church has always done? We are the redeemed who by the power of Christ redeem others. The rescued becoming the rescuers. Enacting the story of Christ: He reached out to serve us…we reach out to serve and love others…even if they are refugees, Muslims, enemies, or any other label.

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Mat 5:46-48 NIV


Christ and the Journey Ahead: The Beginning

This is a picture from Quail Hollow. This is the exact location I have always come to hear from the Father, cry out to the Lord, and rest in His Spirit. This picture best represents what I think life is like: an exciting and arduous journey ahead. One that I believe is best walked with the Lord. Day by day. Minute by minute. Through each joy, tragedy, and storm.

As a pastor I hear questions swirling around the minds of many Christ-followers. Questions like:

“How do we live this life of following Jesus? How do we respond to a culture very different from our own? Who in fact was Jesus and what more is there to know about Him? How can I better love and serve others like He did? How do we engage the Scriptures and understand what is being written? How do we know what is to be literal and what is figurative in Scripture?  How can we better learn to hear the voice of God and be led by His Spirit in prayer? Where is God in the midst of my tragedy?

All of these and more are why this blog has begun. To start a conversation and help point us forward in our journey.

Questions like these (and many others) are what drive this blog. If all of us are honest, we have many questions. Inquires about life, purpose, direction, our faith, and so on. It is my prayer and hope that this blog can be a place where questions and topics can be explored which are relevant, important, and trans formative.

I make no claim to perfection. The beauty of this or any blog is in the mutual dialog that can take place. The goal is for this to be a community of fellow journey-ers that discuss, encourage, and learn from one another. It is my prayer that each blog entry that follows this beginning post would be a blessing to you. Whether they challenge, encourage, or make you think.

From time to time there may be an occasional book review, movie review, and other kinds of entries. There will be guest bloggers, interviews, and an occasional article from “outside” the common circle of Christianity. In all, I hope to make this a diverse blog with something for everyone.

In summary the purpose of this blog is to encourage, challenge, and strengthen our journey in becoming like Christ. The role of a pastor/ shepherd, as Eugene Peterson explains, is to “pay attention and call attention.” This means that with any topic a shepherd is thinking, listening, watching, wrestling followed by communicating what comes out of it. This blog is an outlet of that.

The target audience for the blog is first those I have the honor to lead @HighMill Church. Expect occasional entries on sermons, vision, testimonies and all things HighMill. The goal is to post 1-2 times each week. I also pray that what is here would somehow bless those outside HighMill as well.

Be sure and subscribe via email on the right hand side (widget button) so that you are able to stay caught up. If anything here challenges, teaches, or blesses you I encourage you to share it via one of the avenues below. The goal for any blog is to create community. So by following, sharing, and contributing–you are making that a reality.

Thank you and welcome to Christ and the Journey Ahead!

Noah D. Schumacher