C.S. Lewis on Perfection

The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.
From Mere Christianity

I’m glad Professor Lewis, or at least Bible Gateway (who made a C.S. Lewis daily feed available free of charge), brought that up. “Perfection,” in the Biblical context, doesn’t mean what we think it does today. Jesus meant it as “complete,” in the sense of reaching a certain state or condition. And it could also mean, “mature,” as in attitude or practice.

Even the word “mature” has been warped in today’s usage; most people think of it as synonymous with “old.” I wish more old people were truly mature, instead of living the self-centered, crotchety attitude of many seniors. My hair is about as gray as it can get, but even my own attitude toward “white-heads,” tends toward the negative. Have you ever noticed the extreme contrasts between us old folks? Well, I have, and I also have a theory about it: As people age, our temperaments tend to become more extreme versions of what we once had. Sweet-spirited young people become the kind of old folks who bless the socks off everyone they encounter. Self-centered young people become the kind of old folks you really don’t want to rub the wrong way.

I like the way Lewis builds an image of our destiny as gods or goddesses, but only if we allow him to work his way in us. Were we not originally created in God’s image for intimate fellowship with him? Then how can claiming our highest calling through his divine power be presumptuous? Of course he commands us to become perfect, but only in his way and time.


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