“To live a life of perfection is not to make all A’s or to never miss a Sunday at church; rather, it is to live a life true to our identity as children of an utterly untemptable God who never changes, shows no partiality, and has no darkness in Him at all”
-Beth Moore, Mercy Triumphs
I'm currently struggling to write a paper on Christian perfection. I know, I know, it seems a little silly. I'm just frustrated that it's not turning out perfect. I had a route that I wanted to go, but my sources aren't wanting to follow that direction. I wanted to write a paper on perfection, legalism, and Grace for the Good Girl (perks of being a religion major). But, I think I might be actually learning something from all of this- that I don't have it all figured out. I mean, I like to think that "the law" is a bad thing- well, not like an evil-bad thing. More in a I-Don't-Like-Being-Boxed-In kind of thing. Like their isn't freedom in this law. That this whole perfection thing has to be followed to the umteenth degree and when I fail- I fail. But, there IS freedom in this law. It's called the perfect law for a reason. Mariam Kamell says, “The Torah was a law of liberty both because it was given at the time of liberation from Egypt, and because failure to obey it led to repeated enslavements to nations” The ancient Israelites didn't despise the Torah. Yeah, sure, following all of the little laws probably got a little old after awhile. But, by following the law, they were protected.
I think that if you dwell on this whole perfection thing long enough, you will see that we desperately need wholeness and completeness. Even the demons believe in God and fear Him. It is not enough to simply believe. In Mercy Triumphs, Beth makes the statement“To only affirm the first half of the Shema is not enough. To affirm the creedal statement without loving God with one’s entire being is to keep half of the Shema. James calls us obey it all: ‘Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Lack of works equals lack of follow-though. This is what results in the doublemindedness or doubt that James talks about.
We hesitate to commit wholeheartedly to some single particular thing or idea. We stand at the edge, hovering, wondering what may happen. So, we don’t fully commit. We dip our toes in the water, but we run back to the dry sand when the tide comes in. This makes me think of the yogurt commercial on TV where the Mom tells her daughter to go run and get some yogurt- one in each flavor. The point of the commercial is that Yoplait (or whoever) sells too many flavors and the poor girl ends up trying to hold them all and she drops them and we get a "clean up on aisle 11". But, how often are we that girl? We don't want to say "my favorite flavor is blueberry", so we end up conflicted over which "flavors" we should "buy". We end up juggling church, Sunday School, bible studies, dating the perfect Christian boy, wearing modest clothing, trying our very hardest to be the "best Christian". Trying desperately to be perfect. In the end, we don't fully commit to anything. We go to bible study- most of the time. We show up to service- most of the time. But, we still have one foot out in the world. We don't want to miss our favorite TV show, so we don't sign up for Bible study on that night. We don't want to be "uncool", so when the opportunity arises, we jump for it. We love God, but do we love him with everything? Elijah dealt with this in 1 Kings 1:18 when he told the people of Israel “How long will you go limping between two different opinion? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him. He demanded loyalty. This is the same concept James is putting forth.
John Wesley wrote, "They are freed from self-will, as desiring nothing but the holy and perfect will of God; not supplies in want, not ease in pain, not life, or death, or any creature; but continually crying in their innermost soul, ‘Father, thy will be done’…[there once was temptation] but now it does not come in, there being no room for this, in a soul which is full of God." I mean, how many of us would jump on this. I would love to be able to say that this was my mindset. That I desired nothing but God's will. But, I've not been perfected yet. Beth Moore says, “James presents perfection or completeness as the ultimate goal. His call to perfection is not about achieving an abstract state of moral perfection, but about living holistic lives before God”. Perfection is an ultimate goal. But, this goal isn't one of "moral perfection"- doing all the "right" things- it's one of a holistic life. It's one of working towards a mindset of "this is not where I belong, I have a higher purpose". It's seeking wholeness. It's seeking completeness. That's what James means by perfection.