What Is Perfection?

Regarding perfection, people often say "nobody's perfect", but then refer to some as "perfectionists". What does it mean to be perfect? Find out here.

Many people think they know what it means. However, as with many things we learn, we may only have a sort of ad hoc, "working" definition of "perfect". We need a clearer understanding.


What Perfection Is Not

For most people, being perfect involves having no flaws or deficiencies of any type.

Following such a thought to its logical conclusion, it would mean that:

  1. regarding beauty: a person would be in a condition where "not-even-a-hair-is-out-of-place". The person's weight and height, speaking ability and accent, face and graceful movement, are like a "god or goddess".
  2. regarding accomplishments: every athletic attempt is successful; and in academics, the score is always 100%. NO question is ever too hard to answer, and no feat of strength or speed or stamina or skill is impossible. Worry is unknown.
  3. regarding family: there can't be any "skeletons-in-the-closet", no "crazy-uncles" or other family members that "we-don't-talk-about". In fact, the "bloodlines" must all be royalty, and the wealth of the entire world must be at such a "perfect" person's disposal.
  4. regarding health: sickness must never be experienced--not so much as a pimple. Of course, since the person can't become sick, it follows that death is unthinkable.
This is NOT what it means to be "perfect".


Yeshua (Jesus)

Yeshua (Jesus) is our example of perfection.

Ironically, Jesus Himself was NOT "perfect" by the standards of most people:

  1. Jesus was NOT handsome ("beautiful"), as most people think of beauty (Isaiah 53:2);
  2. Jesus had at least one moment when His strength failed Him, as He was carrying His cross (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). Jesus also did NOT know everything (Matthew 24:36). As for worry, there was a time when Jesus became so worried that He began to sweat blood (Luke 22:44).
  3. Of course, Jesus has God as His "natural" Father, so His "family tree" couldn't really be any better than it is. However, from the perspective of most people, the family of Jesus was His earthly parents, and their relatives. The family of Mary, the mother of Jesus, included a priest, Zachariah; his wife, Elizabeth; and their son, John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25,57-64), but not much else is known. The family of Joseph, Mary's husband, did include King David, and David's family (Matthew 1:1-17); but that royal family had some real "imperfections" in their lives. For example, it included Judah, who sold his own brother into slavery (Genesis 37:26-28); and Rahab, who was a prostitute for some time (Joshua 2:1); and even King David stole the wife of one of his soldiers, then had the soldier killed to try to hide the sin (2 Samuel 11:1-27). As for Joseph himself, he was not a king, but a carpenter, and without great riches (Matthew 13:55). Thus, though Jesus IS the Son of God, He did NOT appear to come from a world ruler, controlling the world's wealth.
  4. We don't really know how often Jesus might have been sick (though Hebrews 4:15 says Jesus can sympathize with us in our "infirmities" because of His own experiences). However, Jesus certainly understood physical harm. The brutality of His murder by crucifixion was so terrible that Jesus did not even look like a human being afterwards (Isaiah 52:14). Jesus Christ DID die (Mark 15:44-45; John 19:33; Romans 5:6-8,14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11,15:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:14).

So when Jesus first came, He definitely was NOT what most people considered "perfect".

However, Jesus was very smart with regards to the things of God. When He was only 12 years old, Jesus was basically able to teach about God on the "college" level (He taught the teachers for a few days at the Temple in Jerusalem, according to Luke 2:41-52). Some people today would call the young Jesus a "prodigy"; most would probably consider Him a "nerd".

The perspective of most of humanity is that being a "nerd" is bad. However, according to the Bible, the knowledge and understanding of God is the ONLY thing of which anyone should "boast" (Jeremiah 9:23-24). From God's perspective, knowing and understanding Him is all that matters.


John the Baptist


Yeshua (Jesus) Himself said that no greater person had ever been born to a woman than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28). This means that John was as close to perfect as any person that had ever been born to a woman (including Jesus, who also had a birth mother).

However, the Bible also tells us that John the Baptist wore clothes made of camel's hair and leather; and ate certain insects called "locusts", and "wild" honey from non-domesticated ("wild") bee hives (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6). It is self-evident that God included these details about John so that we could imagine John's appearance and life circumstances--which might then be best summarized by a single word: "caveman" (see Hebrews 11:37-40).

If the judgment of people concerning John the Baptist was based on the way he lived and looked, he would be labeled "strange" or "primitive", or even "insane"--certainly not "perfect". Nevertheless, the Bible gives us the Judgment of God concerning John the Baptist: as great a man as had ever been born to a woman.


David

In 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Yehovah (God) has given us another excellent example of how we should think. It is the story of how the prophet Samuel anointed David to be king in Israel. The portion that is particularly relevant is 1 Samuel 16:6-7.

1 Samuel 16:6-7

"6 And he [Samuel] comes in to them, and sees Eliab, and says, ‘Surely before Yehovah (God)! His anointed!’

7 And Yehovah (God) says to Samuel, ‘You must not look at his appearance, and at the tall height of him that I rejected--not that which a person sees. What man sees is visible; but Yehovah (God) sees the heart.’"


Yehovah (God) warned Samuel, just as He warns us, not to look at how someone appears (for example, how tall someone is). It is not the outer appearance of someone that is important. Instead, it is a person's "heart" [how a person thinks] that is important, which is what God "sees" (Proverbs 23:7a).

Yeshua (Jesus) said something similar in John 7:24.

John 7:24

"24 Do not be judging based on appearance, but judge [render] a righteous judgment."


Meekness


Peter also wrote about the difference between God's and humanity's values, in 1 Peter 3:1-4.

1 Peter 3:1-4

"1 In the same way, wives should be subordinate to their own husbands; so that, if any [husbands] are rejecting the Word, through the behavior of the wives they [the husbands] should be gained without a word,

2 viewing in reverence your [the wives'] venerable behavior.

3 Which [behavior] is not the outward braiding of hair and wearing of gold, nor of putting on worldly clothing;

4 But that private [behavior], of the human heart--in the imperishable and quiet spirit of the meek (which is precious in the perspective of God)."


A "meek" person is someone who is submissive to the will of another person, group, or being (such as God) out of a genuine love for the other. Many people consider "meekness" to be another word for "weakness" or "cowardice". However, meekness is not weakness nor cowardice; instead, meekness comes from being selfless, rather than selfish.



A good example of meekness is the way a loving parent attempts to reconcile with a rebellious child. The parent may have very valid reasons for being angry with the child; and the parent likely could just force the child out of the household. However, because the parent loves the child, the parent will try to preserve the child (possibly through chastisement) rather than destroy the child. No sane person would consider a parent "weak" or a "coward" for making an effort to reconcile with his or her child.

Yeshua (Jesus) also spoke about meekness, as recorded in Matthew 5:5.


Matthew 5:5

"5 Blessed are the meek, because they will inherit the Earth."


Yeshua (Jesus) Himself was meek (Matthew 11:29).

However, as mentioned above, sometimes love requires chastisement (some people call it "tough love")--whether it be with those in their household, or others. This is true for Yeshua (Jesus), too.

The way Jesus handled the moneychangers in the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-46; John 2:13-17) is commonly mentioned by those who wish to deny the meekness of Jesus (or redefine the word "meek"). However, Jesus acted out of love for His Father (John 2:13-17; Psalm 69:9).

Jesus was also giving the moneychangers what they really needed: someone forcefully rejecting their behavior, and thereby making very clear to them that their behavior was unacceptable. Jesus gave a similarly useful warning to those to whom he spoke in Luke 16:15.

Luke 16:15

"15 And He [Yeshua, Jesus] said to them, 'You are those that justify themselves in the perspective of people, but God knows your hearts; that [which is] praised among people is abomination in the perspective of God.'"


Here, we see that
what people call "perfect" ("that [which is] praised among people") is "abomination" from God's perspective.


What Perfection Is

As stated before, Jesus is our example of perfection.

The Apostle Peter wrote of Jesus:

1 Peter 1:19

"But by precious Blood as of a Lamb, without blemish and spotless: Christ."


This is the same language we find in Numbers 19:2, written by Moses in reference to the sacrificial red heifer; and by Paul, referencing the Christian church, in Ephesians 5:27.

Jesus is perfect in-the-sense that He is "spotless" with regards to sin (Jesus is sinless in every way: Hebrews 4:15, 7:26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). This is reinforced by the expression "without blemish", which means essentially the same thing as "spotless" (the word which is translated from Greek into English as "without blemish" has the alternate meaning of "blameless").

James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote:

James 3:1-2

"1 Become not many masters, my brothers, perceiving that we will receive stricter scrutiny;

2 For we are all stumbling often! If anyone in words is not stumbling, this perfect man is able also to steer the whole body."


The Greek word for "stumbling" also carries the meanings of "making mistakes" and "sinning". Since He is sinless in every way, Jesus is "this perfect man, able to steer the whole body" (that "body" being the Church, 1 Corinthians 12:27). Jesus Christ Himself said that we should call no person "Master" except Him (Matthew 23:10).

So "perfection" is that state in which a person is sinless; and being "perfect" is "being without sin".


In the next part, "Perfection: A Mathematical Proof", we will see that even with our "stumbling", there is a type of sinless perfection which is not only possible for Jesus, but for all Christians.

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