Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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Perfection and humilty and servanthood and leadership

Is it possible to be perfect, humble, a servant and a leader all at the same time? According to the New Testament, God expects us to be all of the above. If that seems impossible, perhaps we have gotten hung up on a misunderstanding of the meaning of one or more of those words.

Many well-meaning Christians will insist that the only perfection that we can ever attain to is to be found in Jesus Christ and then His perfection becomes ours. I was going to say that this is a cop-out, but that would be too harsh. It is just a misunderstanding of what the Bible means when it calls us to be perfect. The basic meaning of the word is complete when referring to things, and fully grown or mature when speaking of people. It does not mean to be utterly without flaw or blemish. In the AV, the Greek word teleios is translated 17 times as perfect, once as men (“in understanding be men” 1 Corinthians 14:20) and once as of full age (“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” Hebrews 5:14).

Thus, what the Bible is asking of us is maturity. A person who is mature does not think that he knows everything, that he never makes a mistake, never misunderstands. Someone who is mature is quick to own up to his mistakes, apologize where he has caused offence, and to fix what he has broken.

Looked at in this way, perfection begins to sound a lot like humility, doesn’t it? They really are like the two sides of the same coin. A person who is perfect and humble can be entrusted with responsibility. He will do his best to fulfil that responsibility, without running over anyone who might get in the way. In other words, he see himself as a servant. He is not simply trying to please himself, but whoever has entrusted him with this responsibility. Ultimately, he sees himself as a servant of God and of his fellow men.

Such a person is a leader. He does not see himself as lord over those whom he is leading, but rather as their servant. He goes ahead to show the way, to avoid dangers, to help all to reach their goal. We are all called to be leaders in some way, in the home, at work, even at play.

We will not always do everything just right, or say everything just right. We will be misunderstood; we will be criticized, sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly. Either way, if we respond to the criticism with kindness and respect we will grow and become more useful. This is the way of perfection. If we respond with impatience and anger, we will shrivel and become less useful.

The mommy cat did it

I was visiting with my neighbour’s one hot Sunday afternoon, sitting outside with them on the shady side of the house by the back door.  Their children were playing around us and going in and out the door.  After a while, a half-grown kitten came out the door and we all took note that the hair along its back had been roughly shorn off.

“Who did that?”, demanded the mother.

“I think the mommy cat did,” responded their four year old daughter.

She was innocent enough to think this might sound like a reasonable possibility, and seemed surprised that her mother considered her answer a dead giveaway.  When tufts of hair and a pair of scissors were found on a bed, and Mom expressed her certainty that the mommy cat did not do it, the little girl confessed that it was indeed she who had done it.

The tendency to want to blame someone else when things go wrong stays with us as we grow older.  We just learn to make more reasonable sounding excuses.  A few days ago I saw a greeting card in a store, with the grand-daddy of all excuses: “Counselling has taught me that it’s not my fault.”

The Bible instructs us in many places to be perfect.  Our tendency is to assume that perfect means without fault, which we know to be impossible, so we say this speaks of the perfection of Christ which is imputed to us.  It is true that our sins are covered by the blood of Christ, but I believe these passages are speaking of something else.

The root meaning of perfect is thoroughly done.  Likewise, the Greek words translated perfect mean have the meaning of complete or fully grown.  In the following verses, a Greek word that is translated perfect in other places is translated men and of full age.

Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.  (1 Corinthians 14:20)

But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.  (Hebrews 5:14)

As I read these, and other verses that speak of being perfect, it seems that we are being admonished to be mature and accountable.  A perfect man then would not be one who always does things just right, but one who accepts responsibility for his actions and doesn’t try to blame the mommy cat.  One who admits when he has done wrong, confesses it and tries to make amends.

Is there any other kind of man (or woman) that God can use?

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