Religion Column — The bond of perfectness
By Fr. Jonathan Filkins
There are few among us who would claim to not have made any mistakes, or errors, in their lives. For those who do pretend to hold themselves above the fray, our societies look upon them with a wary eye for, if they do not, then there are ample examples in history when their diabolical evils have provided clear evidence for the necessity of our diligence.
Many of us have heard, from our youth up, the familiar, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Parents relate the aforementioned to their children, when the child has been called a name and then taken a whack at their verbal antogonist. This saying, as some others in the panoply of our familiar expressions, is simply not correct. Words can, and do hurt; as well as teach, comfort and edify. It is a preposterous position to believe we only have effect through positive language.
Also given to misunderstanding, is our language itself: English. While it is most familiar to us, it does have its limits. The Oxford English Dictionary lists 230,000 words; yet studies have shown we use only around 300 in everyday conversations. High school students, when exposed to the Spanish, French, German, or Latin languages, find they frequently learn, “There are no direct equivalents in English,” Even with the best of intents, the available English language modifiers fail to fully convey the foreign language’s nuances and full definitions.
The Holy Bible is also a case in point. Some of us may believe it was first written in Latin, or in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Other than a very few words in Aramaic, neither belief is accurate. The Bible’s first texts were written in Koine Greek, the language of commerce in the Roman Empire. “Koine” is translated to “common,” and our Lord, while this not being his native tongue, knew it as well as his own. Scholars, to this day, often speculate what would have happened if there was not this common language in the Roman Empire to spread the “Good News.” Perhaps Christianity would have had few followers and withered into obscurity as a result of the inability to communicate.
In Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we have the first teachings of the Christian Church about the Three Theological Virtues. These are the trio of underpinnings of what is expected of us as believers in Christ Jesus. We are told these virtues, as translated from Koine Greek, are: faith, hope and love. Faith translates rather well, for it is in the belief in the unseen and the divine power of our Creator. Hope follows right along, for it is the hope in the supernatural, which inspires us to follow the designs of the Creator and believe in the potential of everlasting life.
It is the last part, love, where the translation gets muddy. Love is a particularly generic statement; having been diluted and confused by overuse. It does not, of and by itself, convey a particular type of love; for there are types. Often, like the other languages we attempt to master, we learn of the variableness of what we mean to say and fall short in our efforts.
Paul continues to elaborate upon these virtues. In writing to the Colossians, he talks to us about a specific type of love, as he says, “Above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”
Charity is that free giving of ourselves, in thought, word and deed, without looking for any form of recompense; not even an acknowledgment. If we do, or give, something to someone and, even if only saying to ourselves, “they didn’t even say ‘thank you,’” then it is not the love which God seeks from us. Of course, we may only strive towards perfection. Not remarkably, in our imperfectness, we have an unreachable goal. Yet, we seek the charity of our Creator in his judgement of ourselves. We seek the charity of his forgiveness in who and what we are. We seek his charity for eternal salvation and the perfectness of our own redemption.
For this is the perfect love of God.