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One day at the library, a book fell off a shelf and hit a boy named Milo Crinkley on the head.
The title, “Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days,” was just what he needed.
Wanting more than anything to be perfect, Milo checked the book out and set out to do everything the author, Dr. K. Pinkerson Silverfish, prescribed.
So begins the 1982 children’s book “Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days” by Stephen Manes.
As Milo discovered, to be perfect he had to follow three steps perfectly. On day one he had to wear a stalk of broccoli around his neck like a necklace all day. When asked about it, he said he had a rare disease that only a broccoli necklace could cure.
Day two: Milo had to go without eating for the entire day. Day three: Milo was required to do absolutely nothing for 24 hours - no TV, no crocheting, singing or reading, no playing cards, snapping fingers, eating or even sleeping.
He endured the embarrassment of having to wear broccoli and he was able to not eat for 24 hours, but Milo failed at doing nothing. (He fell asleep.) He was crestfallen when he realized he couldn’t achieve perfection.
The story ends with Milo learning that “perfect means never doing anything wrong, which means never doing anything at all. Therefore, perfect is boring.” The moral of the story: Embrace your not-perfectness and you’ll live happily ever after.
It’s a cute book, but terrible theology, since God demands perfection. And that’s a huge problem for us imperfect humans.
Even so, like Milo, lots of us try to be as perfect as we can be, whether we’re aware of it or not. You can tell by asking people if they think they’re going to heaven after they die, and if yes, why they think they will.
Those who say they will because they try to do more good than bad, because they pray, because they go to church and put money in the offering plate, because they read the Bible - those who give these reasons are like Milo Crinkley, hoping to be perfect by trying.
The truth is, those people who are perfect, who obey every single law of God from the day they’re born until their last breath will have earned their way into heaven. But that takes too much work, and for most of us, if not all, we’ve managed to break a commandment or two, which disqualifies us.
As my pastor says, we break every one of God’s commandments every day of our lives, if not in our deeds then in our thoughts and motives. Even our best deeds are tinged with self-promotion and self-interest.
The bad news: God lets only the perfect into heaven. The rest of us are toast.
However, here’s the good news: Jesus came not just to die to pay the penalty for the sins of his people, for our not-perfectness, but to be perfect for us.
Because he knew we couldn’t, Jesus obeyed every single law and commandment of God and said that if we believe we can exchange our imperfection for his perfection, when God asks us why he should let us into his heaven we can say with complete assurance, “You shouldn’t. But Jesus said I could on his record, not mine.”
That’s the only record of perfection God accepts, which should give us all great joy and freedom. If given a choice between having to be perfect for my entire life by working at it from the day I’m born or trusting in Jesus’ perfect life lived for me, I’d be a fool not to choose Jesus, especially when I know darn well that I’ve never lived a perfect moment ever. I probably even sin in my sleep.
Christians are those who believe that in Christ God sees them as perfect, not based on what they do or have done, but solely on what Christ has done. When Christians try to add their own perfection to that of Christ’s by keeping score of all the good things they do for God, it’s actually a slap in God’s face. It’s saying, “Jesus, your life, your cross, your sacrifice was nice and all, but it wasn’t enough.”
So, here’s my thought: Let’s start 2013 by being perfect, by embracing the perfection of Christ.
I can’t think of any better way to have a perfectly happy new year.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at email@example.com.