Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” The point, I think, is that we should strive to be getting better all the time, rather than sitting around waiting for a magic pill that will get us to the finish line instantaneously.
From the lottery to American Idol, our culture is obsessed with instant success. And the overwhelming majority of the time, it is an illusion — even for those who “succeed” in finding the magic pill in question. For every Carrie Underwood there are dozens of Beau Bices. (Hey, has anyone heard from Clay Aiken recently?)
In Christ, also, we strive for perfection (James 1:4). And we want it in pill form. If we can swallow a pill to instantaneously make us personal evangelists, or dedicated servants, or ministers in hospitality, or model parents, we will take it in a heartbeat. But while we wait for the pill to arrive, we tend to do a whole bunch of nothing.
As always, it is not so much about arriving at a moral destination as it is about choosing a moral path and walking in it (1 John 1:7). We can consider ourselves “perfect” in the Philippians 5:14-15 sense if we are truly committed to pressing toward the goal in Jesus’ designated way. But in the usual sense of the word, we know we will never be “perfect.” We set ourselves up for disappointment, discouragement and self-doubt when we think otherwise.
We can, however, get better. And we should. We must.