“Be perfect, therefore, as God in heaven is perfect.”
– Matt – 5:48
“We come to love not by finding a perfect person but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.”
– Sam Keen
“Do you think you’re perfect?”
The follow up question could be, regardless of your answer, “Then just who do you think you are?”
Some years ago, I stood before our Central Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and Bishop John Russell (our residing Bishop at the time) with several other candidates for ordination and was asked two of the most awkward and confusing questions all UM clergy are asked to this day before being ordained: “Are you going on to perfection?” and “Do you expect to be made perfect in your lifetime?”
The questions are asked of UM Ordinands today. And your answer better be “yes” if you expect to be ordained. Not surprisingly, there always seems to be a long, and awkward, silence before the questions are answered, too. But they could, or perhaps should, be questions asked of us all.
These two questions are at the heart of John Wesley’s idea of Christian perfection. They are also a part of the theological substance of what drew me (a wayward, multi-denominational, multi-faith, seeker of truth) to Wesleyan theology, and the United Methodist Church, as my base camp for the theological adventures and mystical practices that followed for me. And while it remains a confusing and debated doctrine for some theologians both in-camp and out, it remains at the bedrock of my understanding of who we are in relation to one another and “the God in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
I hope to see you this Sunday, Mother’s Day, as we consider this idea of perfection in the paradox “You’re Perfect, Now Change”.