Let’s just be perfect

Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

To be perfect, a fellowship should be of exactly one mind, and live in complete peace. Right? At least, this is what Paul suggests.

We, of course, do not live in this world; we live in a world in which we can only aim for perfection. If we are imperfect, and most people would agree that we can never “in this life” be anything but imperfect, it means that we will live in fellowships that are not of exactly one mind, and not living in peace. So, how do we live in this imperfect world, and aim for perfection?

For Paul, in this case, it meant listening to his appeal, and to us, it might mean listening to the whole counsel of Scripture, and attempting to conform our lives to it. Of course, this only backs the problem up one step, for even if we agree to listen to the whole counsel of Scripture together, we will (in our imperfection) not be of one mind or at complete peace about its meanings and applications.

It is unfortunate that, on occasion, one or another person will attempt to take up the mantle of Paul and claim that his (or, in some few cases, her) way is the perfect way of understanding, and we should be of his or her mind, and live in his or her peace. I imagine that most readers (you bold, brave few) of a simple desire know enough to say “posh” to such.

On the one hand, we must gain as much insight by people prayerfully and honestly talking to one another about issues and values. On the other hand, we must remember that any outcomes we reach will themselves be imperfect, and so conversations must eventually end or be put into abeyance. Although there is positive good in the very act of listening and talking to one another, we must remember that there are other things we might ought to be doing instead of talking, and doing those things instead.

I want to take “And the God of love and peace will be with you” as decidedly not a result of reaching the perfect state of unity (for that is impossible), but as a universal truth that remains even as we imperfectly love and live in peace. As Julian put it, all manner of things will be well, despite our own imperfections; and all manner of things will be well as we are being perfected.