Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Jesus meant when he said, “Be Perfect”

I find a good many people have been bothered by what I said in the previous chapter about Our Lord’s words, ‘Be ye perfect’…. 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.’
in-the-dentist-chair     Let me explain. When I was a child I often had 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 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 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, if you gave them an inch they took an ell.
    Now, if I may put it that way, Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of (like masturbation or physical cowardice) or which is obviously spoiling daily life (like bad temper or drunkenness). 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.
    That is why He warned people to ‘count the cost’ before becoming Christians. ‘Make no mistake,’ He says, ‘if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect— until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.’

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 201-202.


  1. Oh, yes! One of my favorite quotes from "Lewisdom" - "He is making us into 'little Christs'. Nothing else will do. And He is relentless, and never forgets the covenant we made with Him when we said we wanted Jesus as our Savior." Paraphrased, but not the "little Christ" part.

  2. Margaret, it's great to hear from you :)

    Thanks for the Facebook likes. I think your efforts to brings fans in must be working. Wednesday had one of the highest numbers of visitors ever to Mere C.S. Lewis. I know it's been helpful to me and I'm just so glad that's others are finding it beneficial too. I've been Tweeting it too, but I've fallen behind on that.

    It's a great thing, too, when someone like Mary is able to nail down a Lewis quote through a Google search landing her here. So many of the Quotes sites on the net quote C.S. Lewis with no references whatsoever. People landing here can find the source and hopefully we help to generate more sales of Lewis books :)

    Thanks so much for the encouragement. The last couple weeks have been very exciting and compelling as I work through my favourite part of Mere Christianity.

    We should catch up some time soon, Margaret.
    Have a great weekend,

  3. So G, you really don't mind me using the picture of you in the dentist's chair? ;)