It's not about being perfect

The beautiful and fruitful vineyards near Westfield, N.Y.

Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. Matthew 5:48 CEB

There is a softening of heart that comes with age, not out of our virtue so much as out of experience. By seventy, we not only know that no one is perfect, we know that no one can be. Not we, not they, not anybody. In fact, we learn as the years go by that life is nothing but a series of exceptions to be reckoned with, to be mediated, to be understood. Our standards are only that- standards. They are not absolutes, and those who seek to make them so soon fall in the face of their own rigidities. Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years  (bold added for emphasis)

The Common English Bible nails it. In using "complete" to describe the character and example of the Heavenly Father's love, the translation is congruent with the New Testament understanding of teleios. Other versions have "perfect," such as the RSV. The truth is that perfection comes with baggage in English that distorts the original meaning of the Greek.  

Moral perfection is unfortunately what  often comes to mind. Garrison Keillor once quipped that when a pastor mentions to the congregation that "I'm only human," 95% of the congregation immediately thinks adultery.  While character does matter, the point of the exercise is becoming aware of and integrating our character flaws, instead of denying them or projecting them onto others.

Teleios means reaching the end for which we are created. It is not about exercising flawless judgment or always making the best decisions. It is about finding our completion in God's love and fulfilling God's purpose. Being restored  in God's love centers on our intention, because action flows from what we intend and what we want. The question teleios asks of us is simply, how are my actions being shaped more and more from loving intention?


When Clarence Jordon used the word "be mature" in the Cotton Patch Gospel, he described the goal of Christian spirituality. A mature plant is ready to fulfill the purpose for which it was created- to bear fruit: "You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last." John 15: 16
 
Possible evening examen:
  1. In what ways did I fulfill God's purpose today?
  2. How was today unfulfilled or incomplete?
  3. In what ways were my intentions formed, transformed by God's love?

 

 

 

 
 
 



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