For those raised in religious traditions that obsessed over following the letter of the law, crossing every “T” and dotting every “i” when it comes to obeying all those carved-in-stone commandments, here’s some good news. The reason for our suffering is not some vengeful, drill sergeant God who wants us to “get it right,” every single time. Sure, there are good reasons for all those laws and commandments. But it’s not because God wanted to make our lives miserable.
No, actually, the problem is due to a very understandable situation that had nothing to do with God — it’s called “human error.” Somebody MISTRANSLATED a key passage in the Bible!
And once that mistranslation starting making the rounds, and others in the church hierarchy began adopting the idea as their own… even expanding on it, and making it ten times more awful than the original mistake… that’s when all the trouble started.
The passage in question comes from the New Testament, from the gospel of Matthew: “Be ye therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (5:48, if you want to look it up).
The famous Episcopal scholar, author, and creation spirituality guru Matthew Fox points out that the Greek word (in the original Biblical text) that had been misleadingly translated as “be perfect” is teleioi. Fox explains that a more accurate meaning is “be full grown, be adult, be complete and whole” — not “BE PERFECT!”
A parallel passage in Luke’s gospel (the equivalent of another eyewitness giving his own take on what he heard in the same sermon from Jesus) comes much closer to the original intent, in Fox’s opinion: “Be you compassionate as your Creator in heaven is compassionate.”
So there you have it. God didn’t intend holiness to be equated with perfectionism. Rather, in Fox’s thinking, our goal in this life is to “expand” or to “ripen,” to grow towards and into the pursuit of greater compassion for our fellow human beings and other creatures on this earth.
“Imperfection is not a sign of the absence of God,” says Fox.”It is a sign that the ongoing creation is no easy thing. We all bear scars from this rugged process. We can — and must — celebrate the scars.” The alternative, he adds, would be to opt out of the ongoing work of creation, in which we are all serving as partners along with God.
Simply put, questing for perfection is destructive, in so many different ways — while seeking to grow in faith by becoming more compassionate is much more CONSTRUCTIVE and ultimately more kind, more caring for all concerned.