Practicing perfection

I remember a conversation I once had with a Sunday School pupil about Jesus' command ''Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.'' n1 Frankly, he thought this command was impossible for anyone to obey. Yet he had an inner yearning - you might call it a hunger and thirst after righteousness n2 - that wouldn't allow him just to forget the subject. He was hoping, wishing, praying really, that these words could somehow apply to him.

n1 Matthew 5: 48.

n2 see Matthew 5:6.

As I silently prayed, longing to show him the good already in him as a son of God, he mentioned that he was an artist. Indeed he was. He showed me some of his drawings, which he had stuck in his Bible. I was so impressed I couldn't help saying how perfect they were. With that, we suddenly realized that here was an aspect of perfection he already was beginning to exhibit. This opened our eyes to the perfectibility of man through the gospel of Christ. Our discussion about perfection has stuck with me over the years, enlightening the teacher just as much as the student.

My friend explained that he had practiced a lot in order to develop his talent, even though he had been able to draw as long as he could remember. We concluded that the practice of pure Christianity also has to be continuous. Then , step by step, we're able to prove the fact that man is already and eternally perfect as God's spiritual offspring. We need to do our very best in everything, and learn what our best really is by studying the Bible, especially the example of Christ Jesus.

Yet while we need to strive for excellence in life, it's important to realize that we're not striving to be perfect mortals. Perfection, in its truest sense, is a spiritual, immortal quality, and it becomes evident only as the material sense of God's creation is rejected - as we put off the materialistic thinking that constitutes fleshly existence and embrace spirituality. Practicing perfection really means being born again, day by day, as Jesus required.

Why is this important? Because only in this way can we find genuine, lasting joy and well-being. It's materialistic thinking that restricts us, that causes suffering. Spirituality, on the other hand, brings freedom to us right where we are.

In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy n3 writes: ''When we learn in Science how to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect, thought is turned into new and healthy channels, - towards the contemplation of things immortal and away from materiality to the Principle of the universe, including harmonious man.'' n4

n3 The discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.

n4 Science and Health, p. 276.

The word ''Principle'' is a term for God that can be seen as conveying the idea of His unchanging perfection and the manifestation of this perfection in all that He creates and governs. This is the only true condition of being as God has created it, although the human senses are blind to this great fact. In order to recognize and progressively demonstrate this perfection, we need to understand that there is a perfect, absolute Principle that governs man - God the Lawgiver. We also need to recognize that perfection is never generated by man, God's image, although it is expressed by him.

If we claim perfection as human beings but ignore the need for regeneration, healing, and care for others, we will be retarded in our spiritual growth. On the other hand, dissatisfaction with sin, coupled with moral progress and genuine spirituality, will forward our growth and increasingly reveal to us the only true standard of life.

Learning how to obey the Bible's command ''Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God'' 5 is indispensable to progress. Christian Science shows us how to cultivate that obedience. It shows us that practicing perfection - here and now - is both possible and practi

Deuteronomy 18:13.

DAILY BIBLE VERSE Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience goodliness; and to goodliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. II Peter 1:5-8

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