BWB: Epiphany 7: February 20, 2011

Text: Matthew 5:38-48

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.”
If I could change one translation in the entire English Bible, it would be the translation of teleios as “perfect.”
Why?  Most people (at least most of my students in the forty years I taught this passage) see this verse as a command to be morally without flaw.  But moral perfection is not what is implied in the Greek.  As Aristotle uses the word telos, it’s root, it means “reason for being”, or “what a thing is intended to be”.  Every living thing has a telos and it is intimately tied into its nature.  To be teleios has the sense of being “complete” or “fulfilled” or “what you are meant by your very nature to be”, which is a larger and somewhat different concept than being without flaw.  It includes flaws, and such, in the wholeness of one’s being.
Explore the imperative to be teleios.  What would you look like or feel like or behave as one who is teleios?  And what might that have to do with not resisting evil or the evil one?

– Beth Harrison


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