Ponderings: The Idea of Perfection

The idea of “perfection” runs throughout scripture and tradition.  But because of the word “perfection,” many turn away from the notion, reading into it their own stereotypes—the greatest of which is the simple sentence, “No one can be perfect.”

But that is applying a Webster’s dictionary definition of the word, not a biblical one.  Just as “trunk” can mean an elephant’s nose, the rear compartment in a car, the base of a tree, or a large storage box—so the word “perfection” can mean more than one thing.

In Christianity it means “loving God. and loving others.”  Do you want to do that?  Then you want to “be perfect.”  The idea of perfection quickly turns into the life of perfection, and that is why it is not a static reality, but a developing one.  Our lives do not stand still; neither does our perfection.  Like every other virtue, it can be matured.  Like every other human experience (e.g. friendship), it can be enriched.

This is why we often find in the biographies of the saints this interesting phrase, he or she “advanced in perfection.”  That eliminates the dictionary definition once and for all, and takes us into an image that is more akin to a journey than a destination.

The whole thing is based upon God’s prior love of us.  Without that love coming to us first, there is no way we could “ratchet up our resolve” and live the life of perfection.  Perfection is not “will power,” it is grace power.  We love because God first loved us.  But because God has so loved us, we can so love.

So….do you want to love God and others?  Do you want you life to be a life of love?  If so, you are already enrolled in the school of perfection—even if you don’t remember actually signing up!

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Ponderings: The Idea of Perfection

  1. flutterby43 says:

    I blogged about this very subject back in January! Not as CLEARLY, however 😉

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