There are moments in Scripture where the closer an individual is to God, the closer he or she is to the dangerous divide between creature and creator. Jesus’ command to be perfect, as Lewis points out, is a reflection of that danger. “I think [Jesus] meant,” he says, “‘The only help I will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less: but I will give you nothing less.'”
Going all the way back to the Garden of Eden, God’s objective for perfection is evident. God hunts for Adam and Eve in order to redeem them. How does he do this? He casts the couple from the garden and offers an invitation to voluntarily return. And over the course of the biblical narrative, we see God revealing himself for the sake of that same reconciliation: Noah via ark building, Abraham through journey, Sarah from laughing into faith, Jacob by way of broken thievery, Joseph by dreaming, Moses through deliverance, Elijah in a whisper, David through the Psalms. In the end, God in the flesh–Jesus–comes to heal the broken through his own brutal death and bodily resurrection.
In Mere Christianity, Lewis says when we move toward God, it’s like going to the dentist. If we dodge or move, our toothache will only increase. Lewis recounts as a child, he wouldn’t tell his mother about his toothache. He knew it meant fixing it, and that it likely meant the pokes and prods of the dentist on other infected teeth too. So he hid and endured the pain for a time. It didn’t help. It only got worse.
And it doesn’t help when we hesitate to be upturn our lives for Jesus. “Our Lord is like the dentists,” Lewis says. “He will give you the full treatment.” Jesus doesn’t want a pound of flesh here and there. He wants our whole person: body, mind, and soul. He said that unless we are to die with him, we can have no part in him. What he means is exactly on point with what Lewis says, suggesting words from Jesus, “Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect––until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.”
There is a long line of losers, some of whom are referenced above, who recognized they had nothing to give to our Lord except their broken lives. Once we recognize our absolute need, we’ll realize the absolve is found in hiding nothing and surrendering everything.
Why would we want anything less, especially knowing that God wants us. “As a great Christian writer (George MacDonald) pointed out,” Lewis references, “every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, he said, ‘God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.'”