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A Parable of Perfection

July 22, 2009

Once upon a time, the Commandments were given. And the Bar was set: “Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” And, of course, no one was. So everyone chose his or her course.

Levi Pharisee chose the Way of Denial. He followed the Commandments strictly, even concocting many of his own. When he didn’t match up, he conveniently forgot about it. Outward obedience was his focus; his motives didn’t get too much examination.

Good Intentions chose I’m-Trying Avenue. She figured that as long as she meant well and sincerely tried, the rest would be overlooked.  And of course, she didn’t match up to the bar…but she was so occupied with trying that she never really faced this fact.

Then there was Grace Misunderstood. Grace correctly realized that she could not reach the Bar. But in her mind, she lowered the bar. “Perfection is not required,” she thought. She knew the Commandment-Giver was merciful…but she forgot that He was just.

Finally, there was the Publican. Like Grace Misunderstood, he understood that he had failed to reach the Bar. Unlike her, he did not bend the justice of the Commandment-Giver; instead, he bent his knees. He cried, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

And the Publican found the Commandment-Giver to be merciful indeed. He declared the undeserving Publican righteous. And the Commandment-Giver was also just. He condemned the Publican’s sin…by placing it on Another, who took the penalty.

And everyone turned on the Publican. The Pharisee looked down his nose at him and accused him of violating some Pharisee-created rules. Good Intentions joined in the finger-pointing with one hand as she whipped her own back with the other. Grace Misunderstood sort of felt sorry for him, thinking that he was taking himself too seriously.

And meanwhile, only the Publican had been declared righteous, and he was filled with joy. He followed the Commandment-Giver wherever He went.

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [declared righteous] rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

(To read Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and Publican, see Luke 18:9-14.)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael Mattei permalink
    July 23, 2009 2:01 am

    Nicely done.

  2. August 7, 2009 6:47 am


  3. August 13, 2009 7:40 pm


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