You know that verse, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)? Man, it’s so easy to get stuck on those middle two words “fall short,” isn’t it? Especially if you’re a recovering perfectionist like me. Failing and falling short are hard to come to terms with when you’re striving to be the best version of yourself.
And when you consider that many translators have misinterpreted Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” well, it’s easy to see why so many Christians out there have resorted to a rather hypocritical version of faith, keeping their sins and struggles and shortcomings hidden behind closed doors and putting up walls that make talking about a lot of things taboo. Which, of course, leads to other people perceiving the Church as fake and insincere and self-righteous. And face it, too often, we are. It’s sad.
Now, why am I bringing all of this up on an Inspy Romance post? To put it succinctly, 1 John 4 repeatedly tells us “God is love.” And later, that “perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”
So many Christians are trying to be perfect that we begin to fear failure. We fear being a bad example to the world. We fear being exposed, raw, vulnerable. And yet, that’s the ultimate display of love, isn’t it? “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). That’s not necessarily a literal meaning–we lay down our lives the minute we put self-preservation beneath connecting to others in love and in lovingkindness (intentionally one word, it’s a thing). When you “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), you put others’ needs above your own. Make sense?
That’s what makes love perfect. When, like Christ, we don’t hesitate to show that we can be patient, kind, honoring, selfless, calm, forgiving, truthful, protecting, trusting, hopeful, and perseverant (1 Cor. 13:4-7 paraphrased). Those are the things that drive out fear. His love in action.
A lot of romance novels, including Christian and inspirational ones, feature characters who have to overcome their fear before finding love. That’s real life. And it goes beyond the meet-cute and dating. Marriage also requires us to step out of fear and into perfect love–selfless, 1 Cor. 13 love–continually. Yet, because we’re human and therefore imperfect, we’re going to fall short. Continually.
But in Christ, we only need to love and accept grace. Extend it to ourselves and to others. Quit nipping at each other when others fail or fall short or struggle. Because there’s no way anyone can measure up to a literal standard of Matthew 5:48 above. Perfection isn’t attainable this side of Heaven.
Most of my characters struggle with accepting some element of this post, as I think most of us do in real life. In What Could Be, Brynn has struggled with her own bit of perfectionism and fear of failure. In Whatever Comes Our Way, Gina falls for a youth pastor who shows her that love is bigger than fear or anxiety, bigger than the past. And in my latest, What Makes a Home, a lost young woman discovers what the Bible says about love and can’t help but fall in love first with God, then later, her neighbor. People who put her needs before their own inspire Jobie to do the same because if that’s love, then it’s revolutionary.
I’d like to live a revolutionary love. Wouldn’t you?
If God is love and we are made in His image, then it stands to reason, we should be love, too. So whether it’s in a romance, among friends or family, or to the stranger down the street, be love.
Love never fails. So says 1 Corinthians 13:8. So even if you fall short of His glory, in Him, with His love, you can’t possibly fail. Get up, shake off the mistakes you and others make, take courage, and just love some more.
Now, just to lighten up an otherwise heavy post, I’d like to give a copy of What Makes a Home to one reader this week. Simply comment below with one way you relate to this post, and someone will be chosen at random to win an eBook!