Becoming Imperfectly "Perfect"

In Matt.5:48, Jesus commands that those of the kingdom are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Though that’s a TALL order, it may not be so in precisely the way we might think…

The word “perfect,” here and in several other NT passages, does not mean “flawless” or “without defect” – though God is surely “perfect” in that way too!  Instead, teleios (the Greek word from which “perfect” is here translated) refers to being mature, whole, lacking nothing, cf. Matt.19:21 where it is rendered as “complete” by the NASB. Thus, Jesus is not requiring flawless, sinless, or without defect sinlessness, but wholeness, maturity, and completenessAnd what is the signification of having reached such completeness?  When we “love” like God does by loving: those who don’t love us, v.46; those who do evil and unrighteousness, v.45; and even those who make themselves enemies by persecuting us, v.44.  Then we have reached spiritual maturity, completeness, and wholeness. 

Now, you’ve likely heard that “There are no ‘perfect’ churches.”  This is certainly true if by “perfect” the speaker intends “without flaw” or “defect.”  And again, if this definition is the one in mind, the statement is true for the reason that usually follows, “Because they (the imperfect church/congregation) are made up of ‘imperfect’ members.”  In this vein, I would add that they are also led by ‘imperfect’ Elders, served by ‘imperfect’ Deacons, and taught by ‘imperfect’ Preachers/Teachers despite having a “perfect” Head, cf. Eph.1:22-23 and 1Pet.2:21-25, and a “perfect” Constitution/Law, Jas.1:25.  Thus, the ‘imperfection’ lies with us and our less than divinely “perfect” thinking, feeling, and acting.  So, instead of constantly searching for flawless “perfection” in imperfect Elders, Deacons, Preachers, Members, and Congregations…

Perhaps we should concentrate on becoming “perfect” (teleios) in the ways that are presently possible – spiritual wholeness, completeness, and maturity.  To do so, we will at least need the following:

  • Wholeness in our spiritual bodies (individually and collectively), cf. Heb.12:12-13;
  • Completeness of character; cp. Matt.19:13-22; and,
  • Maturity in thought, emotion, and conduct, cf. Heb.5:11-14; 12:1-2.

Perhaps with these parts of our house “in order,” we may not only aspire to the perfection Jesus commanded, but achieve it by “loving those who don’t love” us. 

Now, let’s rethink OUR ideas of the “perfect” congregation, elders, deacons, preachers, and members, and adopt GOD’S notion of them as those who are whole, complete, and mature enough to love like He does.  And just as importantly, lets be sure that we, both individually and congregationally, are ourselves truly striving for perfection:

  • In keeping His word, 1John 2:4-5;
  • By cleansing “ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” 2Cor.7:1; and,
  • By putting “on love, which is the perfect bond of unity,” Col.3:14.

We’re typically pretty good at finding imperfections in others.  Oh that we were instead so adept at becoming “perfect” ourselves… and encouraging others toward the same.

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