I wrote this reflection in a letter that I emailed out to friends a few years ago. I decided to republish here, for everyone to read.
“To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.” -Psalm 119:96
I started reading Psalm 119 and was completely stopped by this verse. I couldn’t get past it. So I needed to stop and reflect and then felt compelled to share with all of you, who have been a part of my life in its varying seasons.
This verse forced me to rethink the essence of perfection. What is it? Is it just a philosophical ideal? Is it even obtainable? My mind wanders to another verse in the Bible, words written by the Apostle Paul that have always been a source of inspiration for me, found in Philippians 3:12: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
This verse also had me mentally tied up with the two antonyms used in this version: limit & boundless. Perfection is limited? Then I think of the concept “Utopian Society,” a subject that idealist authors have been writing about for years, spinning novels of a “perfect” world where mankind has finally achieved his highest ideal; and yet even in all this literature, the plot of every story is driven by the limitedness of man and the conflict encountered within. There IS a limit to perfection.
Perfection is defined by a set of human ideals, reached through human ability to think and reason about the universe around him. This perfection is guarded and perserved by human laws that rely on human strength and will to uphold, so perfection is maintained. Yet as long as there is weakness, perfection will always fail.
And then the truth: that God’s commands are BOUNDLESS, as opposed to the limitation of perfection. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus said (and still says to us) in Matthew 5:48. God’s commands are boundless, yet simple, His greatest command calling us to love Him first and to love other people (Matthew 22:37-39): “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
And we can rest in this promise in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Perfection is only found in and achieved through Jesus Christ. But perfection does not follow chasing after God’s boundless commands. It is discovered and experienced through the pursuit, through pressing on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. As a result, we actually press on BEYOND perfection and enter into the boundless peace and freedom that comes from God’s commands.
I hope these words found you well.