It is all too easy for me to allow almost any discussion to get to the level of words – how they are used, what they mean, what is the philosophy of that word – so I work pretty hard at not letting sermons end up there. However, there are times when we need to take a few moments to look at a particular word, or words, and discuss how we might be using them.
There are two tricky words for us in today’s texts: “holy” and “perfect.” What can make these words a challenge is the totalizing nature they can have. I’ve talked here about totalizing words before but just as a reminder; in this case, a totalizing word is one which encapsulates an entirety. For example, “perfect” when used in the context of a “perfect game” in baseball means the pitcher retired 27 straight batters. There is no wiggle room in a perfect game, either the pitcher retires all 27 batters in a row or they don’t and if they do it is perfect and if they don’t it isn’t.
If we bring this same sort of thinking to perfect and holy as used in our texts today we are in trouble because using them thus can set us up for failure in how we work out the life we are called to in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If we view these words solely through the totalizing lens then they are demotivating, if not demoralizing, due to the fundamental impossibility of achieving either .*
But, what if we step away from the notion that in Leviticus and Matthew this week we are called to an impossible standard? What if, instead, we look at these texts as examples of what a truly holy or perfect person would do? This explains the list of behaviours we encounter in both passages. What if we look at these texts as encouragements to emulate the truly holy and perfect person and actions of God?
That is what I was trying to get at this week and at least some indications suggest that I managed it. I would be delighted to hear what you think and that includes any disagreements you might have with me.
Knox Presbyterian Holy? Perfect? . . . Me?
St. Mark’s Presbyterian Holy? Perfect? . . . Me?
Oh, and by the way, I was able to find my way to Knox Presbyterian in Briercrest without adventure this week 🙂
*peace to the memory of John Wesley