Two weeks ago my wife gave birth to our seventh child. As always for me, the birth of a child is months of anticipation and excitement mixed with a little anxiety followed by the most amazing climactic moment. Even after just two weeks, it seems impossible to imagine my life without this new child in it.
But as I look back over the past ten months of pregnancy, I realize that life continued as normal even though we were awaiting this momentous event. School and chores still happened at home. Work had to be done. We experienced loss and heartache. We witnessed new births and rebirths. Holidays and birthdays were celebrated.
This spring, as the time for our new arrival grew closer, I found myself teaching a bible study on the book of Revelation. Much like waiting for a child, it is a book about anticipation, anxiety and promise. It has long fascinated (and confused) many christians. It is interesting, but also unnerving. And while there is so much to explore in the book, as time drew close for our baby to show up I found myself fascinated by the numbers in the book. Specifically, the number seven.
The numbers in the book of Revelation have long been a source of intrigue. Whether it is the 144,000 of chapter seven, the 1000 years of chapter 20 or the cryptic time, times and half a time, the numbers are a rabbit hole that you can head down for a long time. But the number seven stands out. Whether it is seven seals on a sacred scroll, seven angels with seven trumpets, or seven bowls of wrath, the number seven dominates the book.
It is clear that for John the number seven is the number of perfection. It is God’s number. So much so that the number of the beast is 666, a trio of imperfection. But rather than focus on the number, what fascinates me is the meaning of perfection.
For most of my life I have been reminded that Jesus was perfect. Perfect. What we usually mean by this is that He was sinless. In other words, He never did a wrong thing. Never cheated. Never lied. Never stole. Perfection is not committing a sin.
But that view of perfection sells both Jesus and perfection short. Jesus isn’t perfect just because he never murdered or committed adultery. Rather, He is perfect because of how He loves, shows mercy and applies grace. A person can go through a day not committing any particular sin, and still be a real jerk.
In Revelation, perfection has to do with completeness. Wholeness. When things find the fulfillment God has for them, they are perfected. While many difficult and bad things happen along the way, when God’s will is finally accomplished it is complete and perfect.
Perfection isn’t the absence of badness, but the fulfillment of God’s purposes.
For too long, we have thought our purpose in life to be toeing some very narrow line. What if instead we sought perfection. Real perfection. Lavishing grace on others. Offering ourselves in acts of service and mercy. Truly loving our neighbor.
Yes, we must avoid sin. Not because avoiding it is our goal. But because sin draws us away from the perfect life we have in God. It keeps me from reaching for completeness and wholeness. It makes me want to settle for okay or good enough. But I have had enough of mediocre, I want perfect.
Two weeks ago my wife gave birth to our seventh child. His name is Quinton. He makes me want to do better, love harder, give more generously. He is exactly what God intended. He is perfect. (at least for now)