Perfection, redefined.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15)

I’m not a perfectionist (just ask my wife), but I’ve known people that are. Perfectionism within the Christian community is particularly puzzling to me given that it’s only through the acknowlegement of our imperfection that we accept our need for a savior. Whether you drift towards perfectionism or merely witness it around you, we can turn to Gregory of Nyssa for some perspective.

One of the early Eastern church fathers, Gregory of Nyssa lived in the fourth century in what is modern-day Turkey. In addition to being one of the first to explain the concept of the Trinity, Gregory encouraged others to use the Bible to grow closer to God, including the following excerpt from his work, The Life of Moses. In it, he answers an inquiry from a friend about achieving spiritual perfection.

“Since the goal of the virtuous way of life is the very thing we have been seeking, it is time for you, noble friend, to be known by God and to become his friend.  This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because like slaves we serviley fear punishment, nor to do good because we hope for rewards, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by some business-like arrangement. On the contrary, disregarding all those things for which we hope and which have been reserved by promise, we regard falling from God’s friendship as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God’s friend the only thing worthy of honor and desire. This as I have said, is the perfection of life.”

There we have it. We can forgive ourselves of our own imperfections since we’ve already been forgiven by God, and focus on what is really perfect – becoming friends with our Lord as we pursue the virtuous life and work together to care for those around us.

One Response

  1. I’m not a perfectionist either, but I am a people pleaser and that also draws me away from God. He is the ONE I need to please and being His friend pleases Him the most. Thanks for the reminder.

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