Perfect Confidence

I’ve noticed a theme on the radio lately.  There seems to be an obsession with perfection.  And it seems that even superstars are feeling like they can’t live up to this pressure.  Many of our celebrities are showing their own vulnerabilities in this struggle to be perfect.  They are ending up in rehab, reality shows, divorces, scandals, and in a venue that many of us connect through, they are expressing it in their music.  I will discuss just two songs.  One is targeted to a more mature audience, although I imagine it is actually sung loudly by our youth, and one is probably targeted more for the younger crowd.  First we have Pink.  Her song, Perfect contains lyrics such as:
  • You’re so mean
  • When you talk about yourself, you were wrong
  • Change the voices in your head
  • Make them like you instead…
  • (and the chorus):
  • Oh, pretty pretty please
  • Don’t you ever ever feel
  • Like you’re less than, less than perfect
  • (another chunk):
  • Done looking for the critics, cause they’re everywhere
  • They don’t like my jeans, they don’t get my hair…
This ditty has a great tune to it.  You’ll find yourself belting it out in the car for sure.  But what’s the message?  Is perfection an image?  Is it what you think about yourself?  In her more explicit version, Pink is pretty much saying “F” perfection.  But she’s also saying; don’t think you’re less than perfect.  Can we really all be perfect?  Next we have Selena Gomez’s, Who Says.  Her father was quoted saying this song goes out to all the haters.  Here are some of her lyrics:
  • You made me insecure
  • Told me I wasn’t good enough…
  • (and )
  • I’m no beauty queen
  • I’m just beautiful me… 
  • Who says you’re not perfect
  • Who says you’re not worth it
  • Who says you’re the only one that’s hurting
  • Trust me
  • That’s the price of beauty
  • Who says you’re not pretty
  • Who says you’re not beautiful…
  • (the bridge)
  • Who says you’re not star potential
  • Who says you’re not presidential
  • Who says you can’t be in movies…
 Here we have perfection held up as a beautiful movie star.  Both songs seem to paint our singers as victims of the haters.  And the haters are anyone standing in the way of your dreams.  These songs strike a chord with us though because they try to encourage their listeners in an area we all struggle: self-esteem.  But is perfection just a state of mind?  …Fast forward to my pastor’s sermon this week.  It was on the parable in Luke 18:9-14.  You know this one.  The Pharisee goes to the temple to pray, thanking God that he is not like other men.  You know, he’s glad that he’s not a big fat loser like the tax collector beside of him.  His self-confidence was great.  He thought he was perfect in every way.  Conversely, the tax collector can’t even lift his eyes to heaven as he prays for God’s mercy.  He had no confidence in his own righteousness.  Jesus announces that the tax collector went home justified, rather than the Pharisee. We like to hear this story because we look at all our own haters as the Pharisees.  But I think we so often miss the message.  The above songs promote our worth against “the haters.”  But God gives us our worth in Christ, the great lover.  This God tells us that our own righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), but on account of Christ’s work he will give us a white garment and take us as his bride.  The main message in my pastor's sermon was that how we see ourselves before God reflects how we see ourselves compared to others.  If we see ourselves as righteous enough before God, we will sing with contempt along with Pink and Selena .  Their message is self-congratulatory.  It reflects a flawed understanding of who God is and what he expects.  Yet, these same celebrities contradict themselves with their own exploited cultural perfection as sex symbols in their performances, commercials, videos and photo sessions. Moving on in Jerry’s sermon; if you realize you’re not righteous (a.k.a. perfect), your prayers will reflect a need for mercy.  God responds by declaring us “just” through the work of his very son, Jesus Christ.  We move from the court room of judgment to the most loving relationship with our Redeemer.  He truly frees us from the bondage of sin.  We are truly accepted.  God doesn’t exploit us for his own entertainment.  He doesn’t care about our jeans or our hair.  He sees us for who we really are and provides our righteous perfection.  Now we too can look at our neighbor with the eyes of grace.  We can finally rest from chasing false perfection.  He makes us beautiful.  The basis of our hope is not empty self-talk, but rather what Michael Horton calls Divine Peosis.