For a long time Christ Jesus' words, ''Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,'' n1 seemed to me a distant and impossible demand. Although this stands as a key verse in the Sermon on the Mount, it seemed to call for more than could possibly be achieved. Perhaps, I was tempted to think, it applied to another time or to a particular group, such as the Master's disciples. But certainly not to today or to me.
n1 Matthew 5:48
It was earnest prayer that opened the spiritual meaning of this verse to me. I then began to realize its great promise as well as demand. I saw that perfection was ever the Father's. And I came also to realize that this perfection must be mine to the extent I held to, and lived in harmony with, an awareness of my relationship to God as His treasured child.
This prayer further opened my thought to a sentence from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, n2 a book that had done much to bring clarity to Bible passages for me: ''God requires perfection, but not until the battle between Spirit and flesh is fought and the victory won.'' n3 I had come to see that the word ''flesh'' here and in the Bible stands for material concepts, that which comes to consciousness through the material senses. I then saw more clearly that my job in reaching perfection was not to improve or perfect matter. Rather, it was to lift my thought above matter, to purify my thought through prayer and obedience to Jesus' teachings, so that the spiritual ideal - the Father's perfection - could shine through.
n2 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
n3 Science and Health, p. 254.
I remember a brief encounter I once had with an artist in Rockport, Massachusetts. He was working on a watercolor sketch of the harbor, which he finished in about ten minutes. When it was finished, he studied it carefully and discarded it, doing another sketch. He repeated this about a dozen times. It was apparent that he was working out from an ideal - the perfect sketch he kept mentally before him. Then, suddenly it was there - the final sketch - complete and perfect.
So, as we follow Jesus' counsel to be perfect, we can turn to the spiritual ideal to be held to in thought, remembering that our true goal takes us beyond a material sense of perfection to a realization of our spiritual being, of our indissoluble unity with God, our Father. In the highest sense, our aim isn't to become perfect but to awaken to what man is, and to where man is now - right at the point of perfection, in the image and likeness of God, as the Bible tells us. We find perfection only in God, our perfect source.
This awakening to the fact that the Father is providing for us perfectly, right where we are, is forwarded as we pray the Lord's Prayer, which begins: ''Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.'' n4
n4 Mathew 6:9, 10.
The consciousness of perfection, stemming from our understanding of man's relationship to God, not only brings healing to our own lives but reaches out with blessing beyond our individual sphere. It radiates with healing, a sense of wholeness, to all those around us. Mrs. Eddy writes, ''When thought dwells in God, - and it should not, to our consciousness, dwell elsewhere, - one must benefit those who hold a place in one's memory, whether it be friend or foe, and each share the benefit of that radiation.'' n5
n5Miscellaneous Writings, p. 290.
The way to perfection does involve struggle. But the blessings for ourselves and others that result from our efforts are immeasurable. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Let us go unto perfection. Hebrews 6:1