We usually think of perfection as an ideal for which athletes aim rather than a goal anyone seriously expects to achieve. After all, nobody’s perfect. But that all changed at the Montreal Summer Olympics when a young Romanian girl achieved the impossible.
On July 18, 1976, fourteen-year-old Nadia Comăneci represented Romania in the gymnastics team event. Spectators watched in riveted silence as she confidently completed a mesmerizingly ambitious and astonishingly flawless routine on the uneven bars . . . until the instant her feet planted an unfaltering dismount, which generated an avalanche of applause. But the jubilation dissipated suddenly when her result appeared on the digital display: Comăneci’s brilliant performance had scored only 1.0.
In gymnastics, a panel of judges rates each performance according to its difficulty, creativity, and the technical proficiency of its execution. The highest and lowest figures are discarded and the final score represents an average of the remaining numbers. The highest number a judge can give is a perfect 10, and every judge would need to give a 10 in order for the cumulative score to be 10.
Because this is so unlikely, the electronic score board only allowed space for a single digit on the left side of the decimal point: the maximum number it could show was 9.9, which means it displayed Comăneci’s score as 1.0 instead of the perfect 10 the judges had awarded for the first time in Olympic history. An apologetic voice over the public address system explained the error and the crowd roared to ovation.
Little Nadia was—gymnastically speaking—the world’s first perfect woman.
Of course, gymnastic perfection is determined subjectively by other people. In the spiritual realm, however, the standard of perfection is not subject to human opinion. God alone sets the standard of righteousness and judges whether it has been attained. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Yet the reality is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
As soon as mankind fell in the Garden of Eden, God’s standard became utterly unattainable.
When Jesus of Nazareth was born into this world, humanity encountered the first and only perfect person. That man lived a normal life on earth and in society. He submitted to government authorities, civil regulations, and the Mosaic Law—systems that existed to manage moral imperfection. And Jesus was able to keep God’s law perfectly. He never sinned and thus never fell short of God’s perfect righteousness (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus offered his spotless life on the cross as a substitute for the sin of all who would trust in him for salvation: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the good news of perfection attained, as well as perfection imputed to every imperfect person who trusts in Jesus.
So we can respond to this gift of salvation with worship and obedience. While we will not achieve perfection on earth as our Savior did, we can faithfully pursue the goal of glorifying God by God’s grace. Every family has the great privilege of pursuing that goal together . . . as a team.
— This excerpt is the introduction to The Home Team: God’s Game Plan for the Family —