38-1. Two games away from the perfect season. Wildcat fans were so close they could taste it. Who cares if it hadn’t been done since Bobby Knight’s boys ran the table in the mid 70’s; if anyone could’ve done it, leave it to the twins, Willie, Karl, and Captain Cal to get the job done.
But with great power comes greater responsibility. The weight of this championship run has taken its toll. From the BBN to the coaching staff, no fingernails are left to bite. The hair is slowly turning grey, and the wrinkles are starting to settle in. It was clear from the beginning that everyone was under the burden of not just a championship, but also perfection.
The Burden of Perfection
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
- Matthew 5:48
When I was 16 years old, I wrote these words from Jesus on an index card and carried it with me everywhere. Jesus said be perfect, so I needed to achieve perfection in order to “make it” and to be loved by Him. But the more I tried to be perfect, the more I messed up. My life began to swing between self-righteous pride on my “good days” and self-loathing guilt on my “bad days”. I can relate to Andrew Harrison’s swag as he sunk 2 of 2 from the line to clinch victory over Notre Dame in the Regionals a week ago. I can also relate to his brother Aaron, being carted to the locker room with a towel over his head, devastated by a loss to Wisconsin that was not supposed to happen. There doesn’t seem to be any rest in this pursuit of perfection. Perfection promises pride, worry, nervousness, unease, busyness, but never what we truly need: rest.
God is a perfect God, and because of his perfection he demands perfection from us in his law. But deep down, even our best days are loaded with imperfections. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are imperfect sinners in a great deal of trouble according to this verse.
The Blessing of Perfection
Tim Keller recently said that the good news of Christianity is that it is not based on achieving, like everything else in our culture, but receiving. If this is true, following Jesus isn’t about achieving perfection day-in and day-out, but receiving perfection everyday. This is very good news. We love the idea of perfection because we were made for it, not in us, but in the pursuit of Christ.
I had improperly interpreted this verse when I was in high school. Understood correctly, it means that everything that God demands from us, he provides for us in His Son. This verse was not asking me to earn perfection, but to receive the perfection found in Christ alone. He alone lived the perfect life without sin that God demanded from his law. He alone died the perfect death that we deserved. He alone rose from the dead to win the victory that we could not win on our own. You cannot achieve this. You have to receive it through trusting in Christ, rather than yourself and your performance.
The most important thing you can do this week is stop pursuing perfection in yourself and pursue it in Christ. One will lead to pride, guilt, worry, and dissatisfaction; the other, rest.
Even if UK went 40-0, won #9, and completed the perfect season, they would have lost eventually. Perfection is an illusion in this life. Coach Cal said it all year, “This team is undefeated. They are not perfect.” You might have a good day, good week, or good year but in the words of rapper Lecrae: “I ain’t gon’ lie, you might go down in history, but everything will go down eventually.” We desperately need the perfection of Jesus.
Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose; because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak; because Jesus died for you, you’re free to live; and because Jesus achieved perfection for you, you’re free to rest and receive it.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
- Matthew 11:28