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 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?"
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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Copyright © 2002, Earl S. Gosnell III
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.
Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this paper--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted has its own copyright in most cases, which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.
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