My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained this  that is, I have not already been perfected  but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:10-14)

Do you sometimes wish that God would just reach out and ZAP ZAP ZAP, make everything perfect? Wouldn’t that be nice? Some seem to think that’s what God should do. I don’t think they really understand what God thinks of as “perfection” and if He were to do what they suggest they might get a little upset…

Paul’s idea of “perfection” here in Philippians is a quite a bit different from what most would think of. It’s right there at the start of the passage I quoted – “to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death.” Oh…

Yep, that’s the tricky part. Our imperfections have to be killed off and most of us just don’t want to have that happen. Removing evil from Creation means removing the evil that is in man. Fortunately, God is longsuffering and patient or we would all be gone from here in a flash.

What that leaves us is with the “striving” part and it is also part of what God wants to bring forth in our lives. His desire is for us is, in part, to desire His perfection to the point we are willing to treat everything else as “dung” and race towards the perfection that He has set in front of us as an example. It is the ultimate in faith as it requires us to trust God to the point of dying to self, putting aside all things other than Him.

Ahh, but instead of striving for the prize, man will make up all sorts of things they consider perfection, and pat themselves on the back about having obtained it already. Paul has something to say about that also:

Therefore let those of us who are "perfect" embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways. (Php 3:15)

In case you didn’t get it when you read it in some other translation, Paul is being a little sarcastic here. It’s a kind of pun because the word “perfect” really means having come to the end, or reached a level of maturity. So, since he knows that none of us has reached the perfection he talks about, he is saying those who are mature should understand that there is a ways to go yet. And to those who think they are mature, but don’t quite get it, there is a bit of a warning. If you continue to think you got it all done, all complete, God’s gonna show you where you are wrong and still lacking. Usually, it’s not much fun when He does that. So, even those who have a mature understanding should be of the same mind as Paul – there is much “dying” yet to be done before the “resurrection” can take place.

Now, here is something else I get from this passage. It’s only inferred, not stated directly, but once we realize we are all striving, we should be able to gain a deeper sense of compassion for the strivings of others. Not yet being perfect in our “dying” we can look at the struggles of others and see in their lives a reflection of our own imperfections. Out of that can come a better compassion for their weaknesses. We do not play God and try to ZAP ZAP ZAP them into our own supposed “perfection” but rather realize their own struggle is a mirror of our own.

Well, OK then! We are not perfect, so that’s the perfect excuse for our failings! HAH HAH. Not so fast…

Nevertheless, let us live up to the standard that we have already attained. (Php 3:16)

We may not be at the end yet, but for those who have come a long way on this spiritual journey, we can at least live up to the level of understanding we already have. No excuses. We are striving together to a common end, even though one may have been at it a bit longer. So, Paul finally encourages the Philippians:

Be imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and watch carefully those who are living this way, just as you have us as an example. (Php 3:17)

Paul has already said he isn’t yet perfect, so clearly he isn’t suggesting that the Philippians take him as a model of perfection. Rather, just as Paul is is striving to attain the prize, they should also be striving in the same way.


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