HUNGER | 40 Days of Focus, Day 21


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
(Matthew 5:6 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
(Matthew 5:6 | The Message)

What are you hungry for? What are you thirsty for? What sustains you? What keeps you feeling whole and satisfied?

For certain people among us, the answer is simple: perfection.

We all know those people who want everything to be done right, for everything to be as good as it could possibly be. We know those who chase perfection in all they do – how they raise their family, how they perform academically, how they clean their house, how they organize the files on their computer. There is a right way to do things, and a wrong way to do things. They have a very binary view of the world – right/wrong, black/white, good/evil, straight/crooked.

Good enough is not good enough.

We call these people “Perfectionists.” They find their home at the ONE spot on the Enneagram. Sometimes they are also called “Reformers” because they have a way of seeing what’s wrong with a system or organization and then acting to change it. This can be great for a business. It can be less great with relationships.

Ones have a tendency to “should” all over everyone and everything. You should do this. You should do that. You shouldn’t do that, ever. You should always do this. In their pursuit to make the world around them “perfect,” they are plagued by the phrase “good enough.” Think Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series.

The problem is that we live in an imperfect world. The solution is not to “should” all over everything until it becomes perfect. That’s never going to happen, and it will only lead to frustration, anger, and burnout. The solution for Ones is to love.

Jesus says at the end of Matthew 5,

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

But the context of perfection in this instance is Love – specifically love for one’s enemies. In other words, when we can simply love without agenda, without expecting anything in return, without exception people to change – then we can experience perfection as God defines it.

Ones put a lot of pressure on themselves to avoid mistakes and to do everything correctly. God is urging us to let go of those pressures and walk in love. Instead of chasing your own perfection, seek God’s righteousness (Mt. 6:33). When we seek God’s righteousness above all else, then we will be made full, complete, whole like we never could have known before.

Why do we feel the pressure to be “perfect?” Has social media use relieved those pressures or made it worse?

What’s the difference between human perfection and God’s righteousness?

How does love help combat the trap of perfectionism?

Biblical Enneagram Types: ONES

Enneagram Type ONES are commonly known as “The Perfectionist,” “The Reformer,” or “The Idealist.” Ones see the world in black and white, with little room for gray. Things are either right or wrong, good or bad, perfect or imperfect. Ones are always in pursuit of perfection as a way of controlling their environment.

Ones will straighten picture frames at a friend’s house.

Ones have a strong sense of justice and are greatly concerned with moral and ethical uprightness. When this is externalized, Ones can be some of the greatest advocates for human rights and positive change in the world. But when it becomes internalized, Ones become their own worst critics.

The world isn’t perfect, so Ones take it upon themselves to help make it better. But when Ones do something wrong they jump to thinking that they are bad, and so their anger and frustration gets directed inward.

Listen to me, Ones. There is a difference between saying “I did something bad” and saying “I am bad.” The first is a true statement that can lead to positive transformation. The second is a lie straight from the devil’s own mouth.

It’s no surprise that the Pharisees in the New Testament are portrayed as a very “One” group. If you just pay attention to the interactions Jesus has with them, you see that the Pharisee sect was very concerned with doing all the right things in the right ways. The Pharisees served as the moral backbone of Jewish society. The problem is that Ones can get a bit carried away with it.

Ones have a tendency to act very judgmentally toward others. Ones are often pointing out others’ faults and saying what others should or should not do. They expect perfection from others, but they can’t even obtain their own standards of perfection.

Can you see why Jesus was trying so hard to break them out of this cycle in regards to religion?

Jesus would say things like, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees, then you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” That must have really grated on the nerves of those religious elites. How could anyone be more righteous than they were? Can you believe this guy?

In the same sermon Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Now that’s the language of a One. That’s something the Pharisees could get behind. But what’s the context of that statement? Loving the unlovable. Accepting those who are imperfect. Welcoming those who don’t have it all together. Investing in those whom you deem “lesser.”

The Pharisees couldn’t stand the things Jesus was saying, but also many Pharisees became his followers. I can see why. Jesus was trying to break them out of this need for moral and religious perfection in relating to God. That flew in the face of everything they were teaching. But once they actually listened to Jesus, they found that the true path to freedom and relationship with God lay not in keeping the laws perfectly but in loving God and others more fully.

I don’t think this effect was more profound on anyone than Saul of Tarsus, who would become Paul the Apostle. Paul is the classic example of a One. His journey is one from severe unhealth (anger, resentment, judgmentalism, perfectionism) to true health (love, acceptance, and service to others).

Listen to Paul’s words in Philippians 3 and tell me this doesn’t sound like the words of a One who has undergone a major transformation.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:4-14)

Ones are affected early in life by the message that they have to be “good” and do things “right” in order to be accepted. Paul had to learn that there was nothing he could do to earn God’s love. It didn’t matter how impressive his resumé or how solid his theology was. It would never be good enough. He could never be perfect enough.

Ones need to hear and really internalize the truth – you don’t have to be “perfect” in order to be “good.” Even in the very beginning (Genesis 1) God didn’t say his creation was “perfect.” He said it was “good.” There’s a difference.

Paul still struggled daily with the unhealthy habits and patterns of thoughts/behaviors of a One. He still had to fight off that inner critical voice (Romans 7). He still had to remind himself and others that love was the true calling, not religious perfection (1 Corinthians 13). He would still get angry and lash out at those who opposed him or simply refused to listen to his message (see basically the whole book of Galatians and the second half of 2 Corinthians).

But Ones don’t give up. Ones keep going, no matter what. When a One finds his/her true calling, there is nothing that can stand in their way. Paul faced beatings, imprisonments, and shipwrecks, but he was committed to his calling.

Redeemed, healthy Ones can literally change the world.

Be sure to check out the song “One” by the incredibly talented Sleeping at Last.

Getting all Philosophical again

Here are some ideas that have been running through my head over the last few days. A lot of it is along the lines of Plato, who happens to be my favorite Greek philosopher. It’s part philosophy, part theology, and a dash of psychology. I hope it doesn’t come out too confusing….

There is a law in physics which says that everything which happens has a cause, and nothing which is caused to happen can be greater than the cause. Energy is (in a way) lost.

There is also a law which I have observed (a more philosophical/subjective law) which says that nothing created can ever be as good as the creator. For example, a human will never create a robot which is as “good”/perfect (mentally, emotionally, socially, etc.) as the human creator. A poet can only create a poem that is limited by linguistics. The written or spoken words, however, will never be as “good”/perfect as the original ideas within the mind of the poet. The artist can only do so much under the limitations of the physical paint or chisel. The work of art will never be as good/perfect as the original vision of the artist.

Creation can never be as good or better than the creator. The only exception to this is when a father and mother “create” a child. That child has every ability to become as good as or better than his father. He can be smarter, better looking, more successful, have a better marriage. He is the same flesh and blood, yet he has the capacity to become better.

When God created the world, he said “It is good.” It was never perfect. It was never intended to be perfect. It could not be perfect and never will be perfect – because God, who is the only Perfect being (who was, is, and will be), created it, and in doing so could not have created it “perfect.” It could only ever be “good,” but not “perfect.”

Even man, whom God poured His heart and soul into (quite literally) was only ever “very good.” Mankind, the only creation created in the “Imago Dei,” still could not be perfect because mankind was created out of the dust of the earth – an imperfect material.

Mankind has longed to be perfect. Being “good” isn’t good enough. We want perfection. So much so that if we see something imperfect – a misspelled word or a poorly drawn circle – our mind adjusts so that it is comprehended as perfect. But nothing we do, nothing we create will ever be perfect, because we ourselves are not perfect. If a perfect Creator can only make that which is “good,” what becomes of the creation of imperfect creators? Luckily, the perfect Creator stepped in and gave us a little guidance at various times.

Through Abraham, He created a nation we call the Jews. They were the “chosen” people of God to whom He gave the Law (or Torah) by which they were to live. In doing so, he gave them a good Law, but not a perfect one. It couldn’t have been perfect since it was created and put into imperfect words by which imperfect beings were intended to live…perfectly. Only by doing so would they truly, completely, perfectly, be able to enter the presence of the perfect Creator. But the Law, being an imperfect creation, didn’t work. These imperfect people could not keep the imperfect Law perfectly. Seems pretty hopeless at this point in the story.

But remember the exception to the rule about imperfect creation? A man’s offspring is the only “creation” of his that is able to be as good or better than the man himself. This is where Jesus of Nazareth enters the story. He is not just another man “created” by God, but rather inseminated by God. Adam was created out of dust and was therefore unable to rise to the standard of the Creator. Jesus was procreated by God, thus enabling Him to rise to the level of his Father, that is, perfection.

So what about us? We are still his imperfect creation. That is, until we are “born again” into Christ. We have now become “His offspring” to quote Paul quoting a Greek poet. If we have been born again, we have become “sons of God.”

The implications of this I will leave to you.