Christian Perfection – 12: Opposition to Perfection
By: Frank L. Hoffman
Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
(Matthew 5:48) (Wesley’s writings are in bold)
In the eleventh part of “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection”, John Wesley discusses his brother’s and his surprise at the opposition from “religious men” concerning Christian perfection:
I do not know that any writer has made any objection against that tract to this day; and for some time I did not find much opposition upon the head, at least, not from serious persons. But, after a time, a cry arose, and, that a little surprised me, among religious men, who affirmed, not that I stated perfection wrong, but that “there is no perfection on earth”; nay, and fell vehemently on my brother and me for affirming the contrary. We scarce expected so rough an attack from these, especially as we were clear on justification by faith, and careful to ascribe the whole of salvation to the mere grace of God. But what most surprised us was that we were said to “dishonor Christ” by asserting that He “saveth to the uttermost,” by maintaining He will reign in our hearts alone, and subdue all things to himself.
I’m not at all surprised at the opposition that John and Charles Wesley encountered from so called “religious men”. I’ve heard similar comments all my “religious” life.
I believe that the problem arises from the fact that if these objectors acknowledge perfection on earth, then they are convicting themselves of the titillations and special interests in their own lives that they are reluctant to publicly acknowledge or to eliminate.
Let’s look at an example from another frame of reference. As an airplane pilot, I expect to fly an airplane that has been maintained in “perfect” condition. I expect excellence and perfection from the mechanics that service the plane. Passengers also expect such perfection from the mechanics and from the pilots. What do you think would happen if a mechanic decided he or she liked a certain imperfection or a pilot didn’t care about the lives of the passengers?
Now, let’s look at this earth from God’s perspective. God created it in perfection. He gave it to a perfectly created human and all his future generations to maintain it. Then things began to malfunction. Wouldn’t it be logical to assume that God would want us to maintain it properly by correcting the malfunctions and imperfections? Of course, it’s logical; particularly when God has given us an intelligent mind, the proper tools, and the excellence of the Holy Spirit as our guide to fixing every conceivable problem.
The acceptance of imperfection excludes the power of God. What if we humans were to take the teachings of Jesus seriously and live accordingly, without exception and in perfect, unwavering faith?
Isn’t this what He wants us to do? Aren’t we supposed to trust Him completely? Unfortunately, few in our churches, to our knowledge, have had the courage to do more than just give lip-service to Christianity. Remember Matthew 21:21-22:
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it shall happen.
And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.”
We also have to remember that this fig tree represented spiritually unproductive Israel, much in the same way that much of Christianity is spiritually unproductive today in bringing the heavenly will of God to earth. Shallow, short-sighted, selfish prayers seem to be the order of the day.
Thus, God has not been given a chance to show us how He can transform this fallen creation into His perfection. We believe that He yearns to have His people take that step in true faith. Then, we believe we would see the transformation of the animals and our fellow humans away from destroying each other for food. We humans, by our daily disobedience to our Creator, condemn the whole earth to misery because we have refused to be the stewards, the leaders, the protectors that God created us to be. We have twisted the meaning of “dominion” to suit our selfish desires, all the while shifting responsibility to God and in effect “blaming” Him for our callous cruelty, by twisting the scriptures to suit our short-term ends.
Jesus came to give us the power to overcome, and in overcoming, to transform what had been handed over to and defiled by Satan through the disobedience of Eden’s first humans. In John 16:33 Jesus says,
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Those who object to perfection are expressing the faithless and defeatist attitude that denies the power of God working through us to overcome the world and to usher in the Peaceable Kingdom.