HAND GRENADES AND HORSESHOES

When I worked as a teacher’s aide I was surprised by the number of times some child would rudely ask how old I was. I can only assume that my age, in their minds, was germane to my ability to help them with school work. I would always say, “What do you think?” Then, whatever they guessed (and guesses ranged from 30-60), I’d say, “Close enough.”

As a Christian, is “close enough” ever enough? I say “no.”

As proof, let me offer up Matthew 5:48 in several translations:

ESV: You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. 

NLT: But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

KJV: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

We are admonished to hit the mark of perfection, not to just get close.

This admonition comes at the end of a chapter that begins with the “Beatitudes” and follows those with even harder things like, these:

Not only should you not murder – don’t even call someone a fool:
Verses 21-22: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. 

Not only should you not swear falsely – don’t even be a person whose truthfulness can be questioned:

And verses 33-34: "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 

Not only should you not seek revenge – don’t even resist evil:

And verses 38-39: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 

Not only should you not hate your enemy  – you must return good for the evil:

And verses 43-44: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

These are some tough standards. 

One word translated “sin” in the New Testament is hamartanō and one definition of hamartanō is to “miss the mark.” Another word translated “sin” is very similar – hamartia. It also can mean “miss the mark.” Anything short of “hitting the bull’s eye” of perfection is sin. 

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There is an old saying that “close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.” That is as true for our Christian walk as for anything else. As a Christian, close enough is not enough. 

But I have good news for us all, and it is found in 1 John 2:1-2 [ESV] My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

The word translated “sin” in 1 John 2:1 is hamartanō. If anyone misses the mark, we have Jesus as our advocate. 

In addition, we find the following in John 1:29 [NIV] The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

The word translated “sin” in John 1:29 is hamartia. If anyone misses the mark, we have Jesus, the Lamb that takes away our sin

Sweet sisters, the mark we are called to hit is perfection. We are told to become perfect, as the Father is perfect. Close doesn’t count. If you are anything like me, perfection “ain’t gonna happen” in this life. 

Praise God that Jesus’ blood covers the distance between my best shot and the actual bull’s eye we are called to hit. But we must never be content with close enough. We must always strive to hit the mark “dead on.” We must be working our way, each day, ever closer to perfection and rest in comfort that Jesus covers the gap.

I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.