That Which is Perfect

Love | Maturity

As is my custom I shall approach this subject--this question of what that which is perfect represents (Love? Maturity?) indirectly starting with this illustration of the tables being turned in leadership:

    In the early hours of the 5,742nd year since the creation of the universe, Dr. Mark Davidoff, M.D., stood in the crowded, marvelous, immense nave of Temple Emmanu-El on Fifth Avenue, and belted out "Ain Kelohanu" in a lusty voice, and thought that so far the universe was working out fairly well.  He was young (young-ish), healthy, and rich, an internist like his father and grandfather before him, possessing all his hair, a Jaguar van den Plas, a ten-room condo on Central Park West, a wife and two blossoming Davidoff-ettes.  Around him standing and singing were his people, in whom he was well pleased, the upper crust of Jewish New York, a group as prosperous and secure as any Jews had been since collapse of the caliphate of Cordova.
    The song and the service ended.  Davidoff crowded out with the rest, for the temple was packed for Rosh Hashonah, beginning of the High Holy Days, when it was appropriate for Jews of David's degree of religiosity to seek solidarity and, it might also have been, exculpation for countless Sundays of Chinese food, countless Sabbaths at the office or on the links.
    He knew many of the people milling around the cloakroom, and there was considerable hand shaking, and "good-Yonteff"-ing, before David, enclosed in his camel-hair coat and cashmere muffler, was able to leave the synagogue and emerge out into the bright, crisp day.  He was about to walk down the avenue, to where he would stand a better chance of finding a cab home, when he heard his name called and saw the very last person of his acquaintance he would have expected to see standing in front of Temple Emmanu-El on Rosh Hashonah.
    Vincent Fiske Robinson stood out in that particular throng like a Hasid in Killarney.  He was tall and slim with a face both sculptured and sensual, set with sky blue eyes and decked with fine blond hair worn swept back from a widow's peak.  Mark Davidoff had blue eyes and blond hair too, but not, of course, that kind of blue eyes and blond hair.  Davidoff moved through the crowd and held out his hand.  Robinson's hand in his felt hot and damp.
    "Vince.  Long time no see," said Davidoff with an uncertain smile.  "What are you doing here?"
    "I came to see you, man.  I called your apartment, and your wife told me I'd find you here."
    "Yeah, I didn't figure you were thinking about conversion ..." Davidoff began in a bantering tone, and then stopped, automatically checking out the other man with a diagnostician's eye.  Robinson seemed flushed and overheated despite the chilly air.  He looked as if he had dressed in the dark--he was wearing grubby jeans, a worn blue button-down shirt, and sneakers, over which he had thrown a lined Burberry.  "You okay, Vince?" Davidoff asked.
    "Yeah.  No, actually, I'm a bit of a mess.  Actually, a gigantic mess.  The thing is, could you do a consult for me?  It would really help me out."
    "A consult?  Vince, it's Rosh Hashonah.  Can't it wait."
    "Actually, no, it can't," said Robinson.  "It's personal.  My nurse, one of my nurses, actually, she's my girlfriend ... she's in my apartment, very sick, very, very sick ... I was ... could you, you know, take a look at her?"
    "Vince, what is this? You have an emergency, call 911, get her into a hospital ..."
    "No, actually, I don't think that would be appropriate in this case.  That's why I came here."
    Davidoff was about to refuse when he registered the desperation in Robinson's eyes.
    "Please, Mark.  I really need your help."
    This was new and, Davidoff could not help feeling with a little thrill of self-satisfaction, not a mien that Vincent Fiske Robinson had ever adopted with Mark Davidoff when the two of them had been at Harvard Medical School together.  For a brief period the two students had shared a group house in Cambridge, during which Robinson had given Davidoff numerous unspoken lessons about the difference between New York Jewish aristocracy and Aristocracy.  There was no actual anti- Semitism, of course, not that you could put your finger on, only a humorous, casual condescension.  That Davidoff studied hard and got top grades, while Robinson did not seem to study at all, but eventually received the same degree, and got a good internship, too, was also the subject of considerable comment on Robinson's part, charming comment, for Robinson was certainly the most charming man in Davidoff's experience.  Even when he had pissed you off, and made you feel like, for example, a grubby Jewish grind, it was hard to remain angry with him.  Unaccountably, on this cold New York street corner, an image from a dozen years past flashed across Dr. Davidoff's mind: spring in Cambridge, a Friday, the Friday before the dreaded human physio exam, himself surrounded by books and notes, glancing up from his desk as Robinson pranced by, swinging a lacrosse racket, a white sweater draped around his neck, and a pale laughing girl with a blond pageboy haircut draped on his arm.  Somehow, the current situation, Robinson begging Davidoff to help him out of a mess, balanced out that long-ago scene on some cosmic and inarticulable scorecard.
    So Davidoff smiled and said, "Sure, Vince, I'll have a look at her. Let's go."
--Robert Tanenbaum, Irresistible Impulse161

The preacher had asked me in a marginal note to one of my letters my opinion about "that which is perfect" being love.  As it refers to the complete maturity of the body of Christ, my opinion is we don't usually understand maturity until we get there, which will probably happen faster if we work on today's lessons without being overly concerned about tomorrow's.  If my reader would like a second opinion, one with more substance, I suggest he see the movie "Big Trouble" which deals with these kinds of questions from the artist's viewpoint.  In fact, the RG movie review (4/5/2002?), while lacking the depth of the movie itself, touches base with some of the points from his sermon series in Acts.

First, there were the apostles (esp. Peter) taking the gospel to the Gentiles, initiated by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  If we look at the actual story, I don't think it's a case of the apostles deciding on their own, "Say, why don't we take the gospel to the Gentiles today? Seems there's plenty to go around," but rather it was their reluctant cooperation with a counsel in heaven--the vision (thrice) and the subsequent Spirit baptism. If we consider that for God to make the Gentile Christians equal to the Jewish ones is a real change in fortune for God's elect of the offspring of Abraham, then the lesson of Job would apply here, that he had to accept what was beyond his ken.

So when the reviewer writes: "It is impossible, for example, to explain to a police officer why he is wasting his time on your illegal left turn while real criminals go free," we can relate our own feelings of when the cop stops us rather than go after real criminals to Peter's when the Holy Ghost fell on Cornelius' household rather than on the real people of God.  There wasn't a whole lot that Peter, and then the rest, could do except acquiesce.

The reviewer doesn't stop at first base but goes on to second, "Or to the IRS agent [it is impossible to explain] that Enron is robbing billions from widows and orphans while he ponders your business-related need to buy lots of CD's." That reminds me of my encounter with the charismatic movement in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1970 where it sure wasn't the apostles who were laying hands on people to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  But try to tell them that!

"Or to your wife [it is impossible to explain] why it is pointless to do the dishes on a daily basis when you can save hot water by letting them accumulate for a week in the dishwasher -- which, being airtight, will not stink up the kitchen if you slam it right after adding more dishes." One doesn't have to be married to know that some wives will not stand for this airtight arrangement, but knowing the dishes are there, will run it daily instead of all at the end of the week.  Similarly, I don't have to be a theologian to realize some churches won't leave the dramatic Spirit baptism to its place in history where it belongs, but will seek it in today's age based on God's willingness to give us good gifts, the Spirit baptism being one.

"All of these positions, which make perfect sense, only infuriate the cop, tax man, spouse, etc., by applying logic to a situation they have invested with irrational passion." It's pretty much a waste of time to debate it with them, and there's the danger that once we let them get to third base, the next hitter might try to bring them home with logic.

    "Yes, thank you, Doctor.  You're a scientific man, do you know what Occam's razor is?"
    This caught the witness off guard, as it was meant to.  He frowned and said, "In a general way. I believe it's the principle that says if you want to explain something, some experimental result, then the simplest explanation, the one making the fewest assumptions, is the one likely to be true."

If we were to look at the number of assumptions on each side of the issue, and which explanation is the simpler, ... well, when one comments on cosmic dimensions, he runs the risk of being put in his place, as in the song, "The Happening," "I saw the light too late/ When that fickle finger of fate/ Came and broke my pretty balloon." I myself prefer not to hold too strong an opinion on these matters as I am trying to find ways to apply God's word in areas where it gets neglected, ways that once quoted are pretty obvious, not these controversial spiritual matters.
    "A lot more clear," said Karp with a straight face, "as well you know; Fourth Amendment is like Macy's window compared to the Fifth and Miranda precedents, where we see but through a glass darkly. ..."163

I go along with the way this preacher teaches a high spiritual matter because it's sensible in its own right and the resulting carefulness with scripture and the subtle action of the Spirit is the better church environment for me.

    "It comes down to this," Moore said. "When you're faced with equally plausible alternatives, you've got to make a choice. At some point, you've got to say--this is the reality I perceive.  There may be an absolute reality out there, but I'm not necessarily going to recognize it even if I see it. All I can do is look at the reality I perceive and see if it is moving in a good direction. If it is, I support it. Otherwise, I oppose it."164

In my high school years there was a girl at the swimming pool I wanted to impress.  She'd just sunbathe near the deep end of the pool, watching all the people.  So I started doing dives off the high board.  Nobody ever instructed me how, but I watched others do it, and how hard could it be?  I just needed concentration and form. Like writing deeply on subjects; how hard could it be? Just keep your concentration and quote sources; that's how other authors do it.  But one doesn't want to do any kind of diving in the wading pool!  Oh, I'm sure the Charismatics are having themselves a great time splashing around in the water, but they can't relate in depth even to some of my modest understandings.

In the movie, for what it's worth, the dog represented the prophet, such a mixed breed that he was of no use whatsoever as a watchdog.  Then he got squirted by a hallucinogenic toad which inspired him to chase his tail.  Then the man-of-the-house got squirted and he thought the barking dog reminded him of his ex-wife.  While never exactly becoming useful, the dog did go through the stages from general friendliness, to chasing himself, to barking at his master.  I think for a screenwriter to use a dog outgrowing his puppiness is one way to help us understand Paul's teaching about putting away the things of youth as one matures.

But it's not just the prophet who sees through a glass darkly, but also the teacher who only knows in part.  The various cast would represent various levels of knowledge among teachers.  The kids with the squirt gun they never got to use would be teachings that never got off the ground.  The two-bit crooks, one of whom said, "I think I hear one of them silent alarms," are the teachers who read into the Bible from their imagination things that just aren't there.  The two hit men who never did make their target but who nevertheless did an excellent job explaining to the cigar-smokers at the neighboring table the difference between rules and manners, they would be the teachers who do a wonderful job of bringing us to understand the difference between the law and grace, but never get to work out much application.  The two policemen, one a policewoman, did their job okay until their sexuality interfered with their professionalism.  I think one's sexuality can interfere with his ministry if he hasn't embraced his proper calling of God.

My favorite was the two security guards: the one on seeing his partner was armed, said, "I didn't think we were allowed to carry guns on this job," to which the other replied, "We're not allowed to drink, either," as he sipped from a flask.  He represents the principle that two wrongs don't make a right, and the teachers who compound error with error.  In particular, some scholars have interpreted Paul's command to not be unequally yoked as applying to marriage.. Then they rewrite other verses of the Bible to agree with that interpretation.  New World Version (Matt. 19:6) "... What God has yoked together let no man put apart." I can picture the marriage of a farmer who routinely uses oxen to work his farm.  "To have and to hold..." Those yoked oxen, although they have each other for a partner, don't have much ability to express physical affection.  "For better or worse." If one pairing isn't doing a good job, he'll try a different one hoping for better results, maybe some experimentation.  "For rich or for poor." He's not going to stick with a yoking that's making him poor, you better believe it.  "In sickness and in health." If one of the pair gets sick, he'll substitute a healthy one while he tends the sick one.  "Till death do us part." He probably wouldn't bother plowing with an ox on its last leg.  Too much trouble, butcher it for dinner next week, and plow with a new one today.  I think joining, not yoking, in marriage is more compatible with Christian doctrine.

The movie FBI agents were nobody's fools, and what they didn't know, they investigated to find out, and they asked a lot of questions.  Good teachers.

Bringing the atomic bomb through airport security represented the teacher who strains at a gnat and swallows a camel.

The Christ figure was the homeless man, who, yes, he did express love, "I love you," but throughout the movie he was the one carrying the suitcase, the servant.  Yes, at least from this movie's representation, perfect maturity, being like Christ, means love, but a love that manifests itself in service.

I have a hard time figuring out the movie, not to mention Christian life, so I can't really answer the question any better than this attempt.


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Copyright © 2002, Earl S. Gosnell III

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