It’s my custom virtually every morning to stop on my way to my office at a local drive-up coffee hut near my house. And this morning as I pulled up to order my coffee, a young gal of twenty or so asked me for my order.
“A small coffee with an added shot of espresso,” I said.
‘Perfect’ was her reply. “And any cream or sugar with that?”
“Nope, just black, with about half an inch of room, and no lid. I don’t like to drink coffee out of a lid.”
A few moments later, she handed me my coffee. As I drove away from the window, I had to smile a bit. My coffee order wasn’t quite ‘perfect.’ I had to take the lid off of the cup. I don’t like to drink coffee through a lid.
At lunch time, I went through the line at Chick-Filet and ordered a chicken sandwich.
“Do you want the ‘meal that comes with fries’ or just the sandwich?” my young attendant asked.
“Nope. No fries. Just the sandwich,’ I said. “And some of that Chick-filet sauce.”
“Perfect,” he said. “Anything to drink.”
“Yes. A medium lemonade.”
And again, he said, “Perfect.” Only, this time he gave the word added emphasis, with a falling inflection for the second syllable: “Purr-FECT,” he said. I was kind of excited about that, because I’ve never had a perfect medium lemonade before.
I stayed in that line of cars, waiting my turn, until another young server approached me and asked, “Are you Ken?”
He handed me my ‘perfect’ chicken sandwich and a medium lemonade. Except … well, when I got back to my office, I discovered that my ‘perfect’ order of a chicken sandwich wasn’t quite perfect. No sauce. They forgot to give me my sauce.
If you’re like me, you’ve noticed that the word ‘perfect’ is used a lot these days. But no matter how it’s used — no matter the context or occasion — whatever is being pronounced or announced as being ‘perfect,’ … isn’t perfect.
When the weather’s especially nice, we describe it as a ‘perfect’ day, not a cloud in the sky. When a baseball game has no hits, no runs, no errors, they say it’s a ‘perfect game.’ When a runner is thrown out trying to steal second base, the broadcaster says, “That was a perfect throw.’ I’ve had some meals I said at the time were perfect meals. I’ve even known married couples — husbands and wives — who people said were perfect for one another. And yet … perfect?
We all know that when we use that word, perfect, we don’t really mean ‘perfect.’ We mean something akin to ‘pretty good,’ or ‘way better than average.’ Absolute perfection is the absence of any flaw, and having the characteristic of being as good as something can possibly be.
Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message of Hebrews, chapter 10 described how the OT priests went to work at the altar of God each day, and offered the same old sacrifices year in, and year out. And those sacrifices … never made a dent in the sin problem, because while those animals being sacrificed may have been without blemish or deformity, they weren’t perfect.
When Jesus died on that cross, He made a single sacrifice for our sins. The writer of Hebrews says, “It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people.” Sin is not the act of making a mistake. When my morning coffee had a lid because my server forgot to leave it off? When my Chick-filet order was missing the special sauce? Those weren’t examples of sin. Those were simple mistakes.
Just as there is a world of difference between a ‘perfect’ cup of morning coffee and a cup that’s got a lid on it — there is literally an Eternal World of difference between a person who has made a simple mistake and a person who’s sin separates him from a Holy God.
When I stand before the maker of heaven and earth, and I give an account of my life, I am so grateful I won’t have lie and say “I did pretty good,” or “I was way better than average.” I will, instead, point to the once-and-for-all perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ, and declare it: He is my Savior.
That will be the beginning of a perfect eternity.