The word “perfect” in Greek is “teleios”, which is phonetically spelled (tel’-i-os). According to Strong’s Concordance it means “(a) complete in all its parts, (b) full grown, of full age”, in the sense of having reached its end, complete, mature, and adult.
I was at a meeting at a friend’s house and a lady brought forth the concept that the word is related to “telescope”. She understood for this word to mean that “perfect” isn’t an end, but a continuum. With her idea, the seed, the sapling, and the tree are all the same. They are perfect. She related it to when Jesus says in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus says this at the end of the section with the Beatitudes, and where he tells us to be kind to everybody, not just the nice people.
Now, her translation of the word isn’t accurate as far as I can determine, but I still like the idea, so I’m going to go with it. I think her understanding of it is far more helpful when we are trying to have patience with ourselves.
With her translation, Jesus isn’t talking about perfect in the way we think of the word perfect. How can we possibly be perfect like God is perfect? That is impossible. That is completely against human nature. We are fallible. We make mistakes. Making mistakes is part of the package deal for mortality.
God sees us on a continuum. We are not stopped in time with God. We are past and future and present all at the same time. Remember, God is the alpha and omega all at once. God is, was, and shall be.
There is a book called “Trout are Made of Trees”. It is a children’s biology book. The concept is that trees rot and fall into the water. Bugs eat the rotted trees. Trout eat the bugs. Thus, trout are made of trees. Subsequently, if we eat the trout, we are eating the bugs that ate the trees, so we too are made of trees (and bugs, and trout…) There is no beginning or end.
Thich Nhat Hahn says in “Living Buddha, Living Christ” that when we look at a flower, we are actually looking at time. We are looking at all the time it took for it to develop, and all the elements required to create it. We are looking at the sun and the rain that it took to grow the flower. It is simply those elements combining in that way at that moment that we name “flower”.
It isn’t a flower, really. It is elements, and time, and our perception.
We humans only see things as they are right now. How amazing it would be to see past and future at the same time, but I suspect it would be overwhelming. I just don’t think we are wired that way. I think it would short out our fuses. It is like trying to run a 110 appliance on a 220 outlet. It just can’t handle that input.
How much of that limitation is physical and how much of that is societal? How much of that is because that is how we are taught to see? We can imagine, however. Our Zen friends try to see this way. They slow time by meditating and by intensely focusing on the moment right in front of them.
We are perfect. We are made up of all that has come before us, and all that we will ever be. Where we are now is perfect. Who we are now is perfect. It may not seem like it, but try to see it with God’s perspective.
God knows our past and still loves us. God knows our future. God is in charge, and God is perfect. The prophet Jeremiah tells us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
We are who we are today because of our struggles. We will be who we are tomorrow and a year from now because of what we overcame today.
Be perfect, knowing that you already are.