I've been mentored over the years by a number of different individuals. Each of these people have contributed to my own growth and development in numerous ways. But it's also strangely true that I could sum up each person's influence in one, crystalized, unforgettable phrase.
For example, I've read many of Francis Schaeffer's works, and the ministry to which God called us for a number of years in the North Cascades ended up being a ministry very similar to that of L'Abri, the ministry he founded and directed. But for all the hundreds of pages I've read by this man, there is one phrase that stands out above all the rest. It's this:
"If you insist on perfection or nothing, you'll get nothing every time"
All of us are men and women who bear God's image - but we're fallen. Though some measure of wholeness and redemption is possible, the effects of the fall are never completely inescapable. When I say this to some people they accuse me of 'going light on sin' or of offering license to mediocrity.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus sets the bar pretty high when he invites us to pursue wholeness, and holiness, and perfection. The goal must always be nothing less than the fulness of Christ. But here's the problem: It's quite tempting, in the face of our shortcomings, to simply quit going after Christ's goal, because we realize that we don't reach it, so 'why bother trying?' And the result is disengagement; from our pursuit of Christ, our pursuit of fellowship, and our pursuit of service. The disengagement is nice because we don't need to worry about the messiness of sin, and fallen humans, and fallen churches. How clean and neat. How boring.
Schaeffer practiced what he preached. Reading through his own personal letters, now published, I realize that he didn't wait until he'd arrived before he began serving. He served in the midst of his own transformation, his own doubts, his own issues. He served people with doubts, and issues too. He once wrote about how important it is not be romantic about relationships and hospitality, and talked about people throwing up on the nice rugs in the Scheaffer house, and the drapes getting burned up by a stray flame from a careless match, tossed by a guest. Insist on perfection? Rubbish. The reality is that we just need to get on with it... in the midst of our own falleness and the falleness of our world, recognizing that God uses us on the basis of our avialability, not our perfection.
Perfection or Nothing? Thank God there are other options. Thank God Schaeffer demonstrated them.