Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

February 15, 2022
‘Perfection’ is about process, not comparison

The word perfection, it seems to me, is thrown around a lot in our culture, perhaps a little too much. It is the elusive goal that may contribute to everything from drug addiction to mental instability and even suicide. It is the constant message of people trying to sell beauty products, exercise equipment, and just about every other scheme or product that promises “perfection.” 

I really don’t think I can affect the behavior of the marketing industry, but within people of faith there may be room for further discussion. Perhaps a good place to start is with the definition, or should I say definitions, of that overused word. 

In the English language which many of us speak to one degree or another the word is about comparison: “Conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type,” from Dictionary.com. For people of faith comparison is a dangerous way to view our world or our faith walk. We can always find someone who we decide is not quite as “good” as we are and conversely we can become discouraged by people who we may think are “better” than we perceive our self to be. 

In the New Testament Greek, which hardly anyone speaks, the word means complete, which is more about process than comparison. Jesus talked about perfection in the Sermon on the Mount in the context of humanly impossible goals like loving our enemies. Paul, writing to the church in Philippi, expanded on the concept of process when he wrote.  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). Paul goes on to say he does not have it all figured out but he has come to an important part of the process. “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13). I can’t speak for anyone but myself but when a man like Paul says “one thing I do” it gets my attention. 

This is not a formula or even a suggestion, it is a focus that Paul is convinced will help him to find completeness. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” We may believe that our past and those experiences may have great value in our future, but there is importance in keeping them in perspective. I was reminded recently that the rear view mirror has value, but it is no substitute for the windshield. In my car I have three rear facing mirrors and a back up camera, but I would never consider replacing those helpful views for the clarity and continuity of the windshield. 

The past has a place; for example we need to remember the price Christ paid for our lives. That is a powerful anchor; however, in our personal past with all of its failure, and yes even successes, it should never be allowed to keep us from looking forward to what is next for us. For the reason Christ has taken hold of us, perhaps not perfect, but complete.

Bill Upton is a retired chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.

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