Summary: “A good resolution is like an old horse, which is often saddled but rarely ridden.” - Mexican Proverb -
“A good resolution is like an old horse, which is often saddled but rarely ridden.”
- Mexican Proverb -
I must be part Mexican.
I love New Years resolutions … making them, that is. I’m not sure what happens on the keeping them side, but I make them faithfully. I have kept a personal journal, irregularly, for years. Irregularly meaning that I have faithfully kept a personal journal each year for the last twenty years, but have consistently avoided making daily entries. Fortunately enough for this week’s letter, each yearly journal includes an entry for January 1. After that, things get sketchy.
The reason for my faithfully beginning a journal each year is that it is always on my New Years resolution list; thus the January 1 entry. The reason it’s always on my New Years resolution list is that each year I fail to keep up the journal entries on any regular basis.
One thing that has proven my yearly personal journal useful, however, is that it always includes my New Years resolutions. And every year the list is pretty much the same.
Thus my suspicion of a Mexican heritage. My old horse is often saddled but rarely ridden.
It may seem like some sort of psychosis to constantly make resolutions only to fail in implementing them, only to make the resolutions again. It may not just seem like a psychosis, it may be a psychosis. But let’s not explore that path any longer.
My point is that it’s part of the human condition to want to improve one’s self. Each year we have a fresh start, a new chance at improvement, or dare I say, even perfection. Well, perfection seems like stretching the point. I mean, after all who’s perfect anyway? Certainly not you and me.
The problem is, if you’re a follower of Christ, that the Bible commands you to be perfect. Jesus Himself ordered it. “Be perfect, therefore, even as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
“Be perfect.” Oh great. We can’t even be good!
By the way, Jesus Himself laid that one on us too. Remember the rich young ruler? The guy who really was pretty good and trying to get gooder? Jesus’ answer to him was; “Why do you call me good? … No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).
So, no one is good but God alone and we’re commanded to be perfect. That, they taught us in school, is a conundrum – a puzzler.
But I think I may have figured out the puzzle. It’s in what the words “good” and “perfect” really mean in the New Testament Greek in which they were written. “Good,” the Greek word agathos, just means “good” … not going far there. “Perfect” though, gets pretty interesting.
“Perfect,” in New Testament Greek is teleios; it means “complete.” More fully, it means “complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.) completeness - of full age, man, perfect.”
It’s the finished product –what we’re supposed to look like when we’re done.
Today we have our own meanings for the words “good” and “perfect.” “Good,” for us, is weighed out by its ingredients. If we add up all of our actions and intentions and come up with a result of 46% bad and 54% good, then we’re ready to consider ourselves mostly good. “Perfect” on the other hand, means flawless; and nobody’s flawless.
God, however, gives us a very different definition of the words. “Good,” in God’s eyes, is good; something as it should be, the way it was meant to be, it doesn’t require any change or alteration. “Perfect,” in God’s lexicon, means complete or finished. It’s what the object of perfection should look like once it’s done. It refers to the intended final outcome of a work in process.
When Jesus said that no one but God is “good,” He meant that no one (other than God) is as he should be - not requiring any change or alteration. And when He commanded us to be “perfect,” He knew that we weren’t already “perfect” (finished) but that we were a work in process, intended for “perfection” (completion) and that we must submit ourselves to that process.
Our daughter, Angie, is a potter. She sculpts bowls, vases, and other works of art from clay. When she throws a lump of gray, wet clay on her wheel, she has a finished piece in mind. In her hand she holds a lump of unformed clay; in her mind she holds the finished product. As the wheel turns and the clay submits itself to her hands it begins to take the shape of the finished (perfected) product.
Angie’s intention for that lump of clay was never for it to remain a lump of clay, but to become a finished work of art. In the mind of the potter the clay and the work of art are the same material. As a lump of clay, its potential for becoming a finished (perfected) work of art already exists, but is only evident in the mind of the potter. In its completed form, its potential has been brought to the surface and the world can see the finished (perfected) product that was in the mind of the potter all along.