At my college, our chapel on Tuesday featured Roddy Chong, a wonderful Christian performing artist. Roddy played the violin (excellently) and gave some insights from his career in the entertainment industry. At the end he did a little Q & A and was asked about the tendency of artists to be drawn to perfectionism. Roddy’s answer wasn’t what I expected. He said that what some saw as perfectionism he saw as striving for excellence, and that was how he had become successful.
I have pondered this answer quite a bit. I just began the exposition of Hebrews in the class I am teaching, and one of the themes in Hebrews is perfection. Hebrew uses the Greek verb teleioo nine times, a word meaning “I make perfect, I bring to the perfect end.” Three times this is used of Jesus (2:10, 5:9, 7:28). Three times it is used to show the inability of keeping the law to make one perfect (7:19, 9:9, 10:1). And three times it is talking about people being made perfect (10:14, 11:40, 12:23). Consider one of these:
For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
The promise is that we can become perfect. We can be complete. We can be brought to a perfect end as God our Creator intended us to be. We are being perfected through holiness, and this is a work of God in our lives.
For Christians in the “Holiness” tradition (Nazarenes, some Wesleyans, some old-line Pentecostals, and others), this is not a new idea. They lift up a verse from the Sermon on the Mount:
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The conclusion of earlier Holiness theologians was that Christ would not have commanded us to be perfect if it were impossible, so it is something that should be achievable.
What we miss if we are not careful is that this perfection is not an individual pursuit. It is a cooperative venture between the believer and Christ’s Holy Spirit. Paul puts it this way:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
So there is hope for me yet. I am a work in project and have been for over 50 years, but I think I am a little closer than I was even a few years ago. Perfection. Excellence. Perfection in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and my full devotion and attention. That’s Giant Theology.
Nebraska Christian College.