Thursday, March 29, 2007

You must be perfect...

"You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt. 5:48)

There is probably no saying of Jesus subjected to more abuse than this one. The very way in which it is translated into our English Bibles does violence to its profound and paradoxical meaning, for "you must therefore be perfect" brings to our minds the image of abiding by a perfectionist moral code that allows us no shadow, no taint of impurity or imperfection - in short, that does not allow us any possibility for reconciliation with the inner enemey. But this is a misleading translation, for, as we saw earlier, the Greek word rendered "perfect" means literally "brought to an end state." It is not a matter of achieving some impossible saintlike condition, but of being fulfilled as the person we were created to be. We are to be complete or whole, our lives and personalities brought to the conclusion that God has intended, not perfect in the narrow and one-sided meaning of the word. It is this completenesss, this paradoxical wholeness, that is the goal of the Kindgom of God, and it can be established only in persons whose very faults and failures have contributed to the development within them of their highest potential and greatest capacity for love. Such a person will not be otherworldly but this-worldly; he or she will not have fled from involvement with the things of the world but will be involved with the world, and yet will not have succumbed to the collective values of the world. People like this will be, in Jesus' words, "cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves." (Matth. 10:16) They will be wise as serpents because, like the serpent, they will be familiar with the things of the earth. Yet they will be innocent as doves because they will be conscious of their own motives and their own earth-nature, and in this way will remain innocent. Such wholeness will be extremely paradoxical. Among the radical descriptions of such a whole person are the parable of the crafty steward (Luke 16:1-8) and the story of the woman who was a sinner (Luke 7:36-50).

- Quoted from The Kingdom Within by John A. Sanford

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