Be Ye Perfect

kenneth cope - FaceToFace-cover

Speaking of the Lord’s command to us to “Be ye perfect,” C. S. Lewis gives us two wonderful analogies that help us see into the Lord’s determined heart. He says:

“Some people seem to think this means ‘Unless you are perfect, I will not help you’….But I do not think He meant that. I think He meant ‘The only help I will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less; but I will give you nothing less.’

“Let me explain. When I was a child I often had a toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother—at least, not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist the next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from the pain: but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists; I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie….

“Now, if I may put it that way, our Lord is like the dentists….Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of….Well, He will cure it all right; but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment….

“The job will not be completed in this life; but He means to get us as far as possible before death….

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.  He intends to come and live in it Himself.

“The command Be ye perfect is not…a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine….The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.” 

(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1960, pp. 171-75.)

6 Responses to Be Ye Perfect

  1. I remember a fireside many, many years ago when you mentioned the idea that if God asks us to be perfect, it must be possible. The idea has never left me and these thoughts from C.S. Lewis add new dimension to it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Lynda Clarke

    I love this C.S. Lewis story. The first time I heard it was when you told it at TOFW. How amazing the Light of Christ can be in the life of one man, to bring him that knowledge though life experience.

  3. Joseph Marrow

    I was taught that the Greek translation for the word perfect is closer to complete or whole.

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