Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Monday, February 9, 2015

Practicing Perfection

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  -- Matthew 5:48

Perfect is a challenge.  The underlying word, though, is one with which Raccoons might be familiar:  τελειο, which comes from τελος – that is, telos, which refers to an end or a goal.  We should not think of degrees of excellence but of fitness.  If you have one lock that you really need to open and you have ten keys on your key ring, the one you want is the perfect one, the τελειο. 

My goal in life is to be the right one when I am needed.  It’s like the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan.  The priest and the Levite who passed by on the other side of the road were concerned with being “perfect” in the sense of being clean and inoffensive – not bad things in themselves.  The Samaritan, on the other hand, was the τελειο for the man who had been beaten and robbed.  We don’t know much about him other than what he did for a stranger.  Jesus did not relate this parable to endorse the Samaritan’s lifestyle or to condemn our efforts to keep ourselves pure and unspotted by worldly thinking and the corruption that accompanies it. 

Perfect may be translated as mature or complete.  Sometimes I think telling someone to be perfect can be a little like telling a small child to “grow up”.  On the other hand, if a man is over twenty-one but still irresponsible, spoiled and self-centered, telling him it is time to grow up is appropriate.  Even a child can act his age.  He can be perfect at that point.  And so may we be perfect. 

Our lock and key analogy, while helpful, is limited.  Our destiny is not static but dynamic and evolving.  Every time our “keyness” fits the situation, the door is opened to a new level of changes and challenges where the old “perfection” is no longer “perfect”.  We are always moving toward the goal of attaining (here’s that verse again)  to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).  

This is the ultimate Telos, the Attractor which draws our history and history in general.  So we are to continue … to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:15-16). 

That will be just perfect.



Rick said...

Telos? - Sure, I know him; he's a friend of mine.

I have this pep talk I give myself: This is just Present Rick taking care of Future Rick. I must make Future Rick a friend of mine, since, sure as rain, I'll be him any minute now.

Who hasn't thought "I was born in the wrong time." Or, "why won't this line of cars stop and let me cross the street?" This is a low opinion of God, no? Those thoughts: I don't mean them that way, but that's what they mean. Don't they?

mushroom said...

That's good. Exactly. We are right where we need to be.