The Paradox of Perfection

Published / by Dan Hett / Leave a Comment

freedomLev 14:1-7

Cleansing From Defiling Skin Diseases
14 The Lord said to Moses, “These are the regulations for any diseased person at the time of their ceremonial cleansing, when they are brought to the priest: The priest is to go outside the camp and examine them. If they have been healed of their defiling skin disease,[a] the priest shall order that two live clean birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop be brought for the person to be cleansed. Then the priest shall order that one of the birds be killed over fresh water in a clay pot. He is then to take the live bird and dip it, together with the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, into the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the defiling disease, and then pronounce them clean. After that, he is to release the live bird in the open fields.

What if we were perfect? Who would we be? Would your thoughts and actions be different? you are probably thinking, “yes, they would be perfect!” But in reality they would be imperfect. Not all that is perceived as perfect actually is. The Bible tells us that the Law is perfect but yet it was imperfect because it could not save us from our sin. Why did God allow sin into the world? Perhaps to make us perfect. For the trials and pains of this world perfect us into who we are. When I drive in the snow I first test the car in relation to it’s ability to handle the wintry mix. I hit the brakes and feel the car slide and feel the tires spin when I hit the gas. Sin and imperfections of this life test our limits and let us find out who we are. Our thoughts and actions become strengthened to deal with adversity.

In this section of Leviticus, an unclean man because of an infectious disease must be deemed clean before entering camp. Tow birds are taken. One is killed over fresh water and the other is taken and dipped into the blood of the other. One must die so the other may live. After the person is sprinkled wit the blood, the bird is released into the open field. Now, think of this bird’s life. It was in captivity likely all it’s life. Raised for the purpose of sacrifice. yet this bird was spared. it now flies free and yet is stained and reminded of the sacrifice the other made. Obviously, the bird cannot fathom such things, but the symbolism remains for us to ponder. We are free because Christ died. We should not be ashamed from where or what we have come from or from who or what we are. Or even, the sin that we currently bear. These scares are for all to see and they are a reminder for us that these scares made us perfect through Christ. Hebrews 2:10 tells us that Christ made us perfect through what he suffered and seems to imply that Christ himself was made perfect through suffering.

Hebrews 5:8-10 supports this:

though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered;
and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation;
10 named of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

How could this be? Was not Christ perfect when he was born which is the very reason he became the sacrificial lamb for our sins? True he was without sin, but just like us, perfection had to be attained. This is because perfection is more than the absence of sin. Jesus was not perfect in his humanity and as High Priest until his suffering was complete according to Hebrews 5.  The Apostle Paul said he himself was working towards understanding this suffering and the perfection it brings. By sharing in Christ suffering and fellowship with others who share the same faith, he was working towards this perfection. Paul says this in Philippians 3:7-14:

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Pressing on Toward the Goal
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Note that working towards this perfection is not works that gives us righteousness. No, in verse 9 Paul says “not having a righteousness of my own…. but that which is through faith in Christ”. This perfection that we strive towards is blending from our hardships, imperfections, and sin. It is then combined with our faith in Christ which is continually making us new. In fact, that is what “sharing in Christ sufferings” is. It is striving towards a holy life while battling our own frailty. Now all this means nothing if we are not perfecting our faith with other believers. This is why in verse 10 Paul says it is the “fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.” We are made perfect when the body of Christ is together. Hebrews 12:1 says:

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,
40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

The reality is, we together make each other perfect. For the cleansing power gives freedom that leads to conviction instead of condemnation. As Romans 6:5 says, we are all united in death and in resurrection through submission, faith, and suffering.

So what exactly is the “perfection?” If we are continually being renewed and working towards something we can never attain, why do we even bother discussing the idea of being made perfect? If Christ died for us and we are now whole before God, what do we gain by attaining something we already have? The answer is we don’t have it, because we still battle with sin while we are on this earth. The perfection is being done with sin. Getting to a point in our life where sharing in Christ sufferings keeps us from sin as 1 Peter 4:1 says:

1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.

Being done with sin is the perfection. Christ suffering was complete and death’s sting was gone when he said “it is finished.” Since Christ has attained this perfection we do not have to worry about trying to become perfect because through Christ we already are. Our job is just to work toward that which we have already attained. So which is it? Have we attained perfection or not? Through Christ – yes, on our own – no. It is a paradox and a struggle we face until the day we are with Christ.