Perfect: absolute, complete, a perfect circle, highly suitable for someone or something. exactly right. Math: of a number where equal to the sum of its divisors.
Grammar: a completed action.or a state of a habitual action that began in the past
Botany: of flower having both stamens and carpils present stage ro state of fungus in which sexually produced spores are formed. entomology: fully adult winged.
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
I believe there is a misconception that to be perfect means to be flawless. I have studied this scripture and thought about it a good deal, mostly because it has caused me to reconsider my fear and intimidation of the concept of perfection.
As a young child I might have thought I needed to be perfect at the piano by not making any mistakes. Of course the mere thought of not making a mistake made me unconsciously make more than a few mistakes. Only when I practiced a piece repeatedly and committed my fingers to muscle memory did I begin to approach the skill level where I was flawless. As I grew to understand music with its great complexities, I began to realize how far from perfect in my musical abilities I truly was. Even if I could play but one song perfectly there were so many variations in rhythm and such that I knew nothing about that the idea of me being complete in my piano and music abilities remained distant.
This is important because the Lord God did not tell Abraham to be flawless, without mistakes, without errors. I believe the word perfect has been purposefully misconstrued to cast discouragement and hopelessness in our way. We are not asked, nor ever have been asked to be flawless. We have been asked to show integrity, to repent, to work with God, to make covenants and to try our best. God knows that in our mortal state it is impossible for us to become perfect.
He did say to Abraham.. in his 99th year, to walk before God, and be thou perfect. I saw two things in this commandment. The first being that God will never ask us to be perfect alone. He asked Abraham to first walk before him. and then be perfect. This is significant because Abraham had to make the effort to walk before God and with God. In doing so God would make Abraham complete.
My husband and I have a inside joke about weather God is a mathematician or a biologist or an artist, etc. It's like asking which came first the chicken or the egg. It turns out that the definition of perfect attends to these different fields of study.
In studying the definitions of perfect, I found that you can have a perfect circle, (a complete circle) or an absolute circle. If you had an imperfect circle it would merely mean it was not complete... it would need to be connected. God is our connection. He makes us whole. When Abraham was asked to walk before God, God was asking him to become absolute in his faith with God. I do not believe God expected Abraham to become perfect (whole or complete) without Him. God's love is meant to make us whole.
In mathematics the idea of a perfect number meant that a numbers divisors could add up to the sum of the number (excluding the number itself). 6 is a perfect number because the divisors of 6 are 1, 2, 3 and 6. You can make an equation (excluding 6 itself) 1+2+3= 6. The equation is balanced, complete, whole and absolute. Perfect numbers are rare. The first four know are 6, 28, 496, and 8128. Later 33, 550, 336 and 8, 589,869,056 were discovered. The connection between God asking Abraham to be perfect could be equated to that of a perfect number. He needed to balance out the equation and be complete. God would provide the boost to make him reach and find the integrity needed to balance his life equation.
In grammar something is only considered perfect once it is completed. This definition takes me back to my piano practice; for to be perfect (in grammar terms) you must complete an action or be in the state of an habitual action that began in the past. So when Abraham was asked to walk before God and be perfect, God was asking him to practice habitual actions or to complete himself with a set of habits.
I love nature. And I loved this definition as it pertained to Abraham. In Botany a perfect flower is considered perfect only when it has both a stamen and a carpi. Because it has both reproductive organs it can reproduce. I may be going out on a limb here and I doubt seriously that this would ever be discussed in Sunday School class, but if you were to consider that at the age of 99 years old Abraham had not yet conceived and born children with his wife Sarah, if he were a flower he was not perfect.
And if you consider that the Lord is making a covenant with Abraham. He is about to promise him a family. For 99 years Abraham has not been able to bear fruit with Sarah, his wife. Now the Lord says to him, walk before me and be perfect. Covenant with me and be perfect. Include me in your daily life and have faith that includes me, and be perfect. Abraham, after his covenant, was able to have a child with Sarah. What does this say about his ability to conceive? If perfect flowers are considered complete because they have both stamen and carpils, and are able to reproduce, was God also making a statement to Abraham about his ability to reproduce?
Lastly, in the world of entomology insects are only considered perfect when they have wings. They must go through many different stages of metamorphosis in order to be considered complete. The different stages they pass through give them what they need in order to make it to their final and complete stage where they can fly. Once they have wings they are considered perfect. When we are perfect with God we have wings to fly above our temptations, wings to realize that perfection may not mean go through life without flaw.
Abraham becomes perfect not because he practiced habits that made him flawless. Abraham walks with God and finds perfection in the circle of God's love that gives him the needed spiritual wings to lift him higher and to balance out his own imperfections with God's own equations.
So now when I hear the scripture, "be ye therefore perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect," I won't allow mounds of guilt waylay me into depression. In stead I will imagine my own imperfections being made whole while I allow myself to continue to learn of God and his ways, and to practice the many different habits that will eventually make me complete with the love of God lifting me.