You shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. —Matthew 5:48
Jesus is not calling us to live without making mistakes or to achieve some impossible level of perfection. He calls us, as Jack Jezreel—founder of Just Faith Ministries—says, to love without exception. Jezreel reflects on this invitation to wholeness in the Center for Action and Contemplation’s journal Oneing:
We are either a people who love, embrace, and enter into a caring posture with our family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and even enemies (real or imagined) or we will spend our lives mercilessly trying to define who is lovable and who is not, who is worthy and who is not, who deserves my attention and who does not. Inevitably, we will end up loving people who look like us, think like us, and pledge allegiance to the same flag—and we will exclude the rest. In this truly useless pursuit, we will separate ourselves from God (through tribal worship), from the world’s good (by avoiding healing and restoration), and from our very souls (through self-preoccupation with ego).
In effect, the wisdom of Jesus describes the powerful, but often neglected, bridge between spiritual insight and social action/real compassion. In fact, the wisdom of Jesus seems to suggest that the link is even more intimate than a bridge; it is the collapse of the two categories altogether. The separation of spirituality from action is a false one. In other words, we are not called to do spiritual practices—prayer, study, meditation, retreat, ritual—and then make our way, now inspired, to the work of mercy and justice. In fact, it might be argued that, if anything, it’s just the reverse: Love those who struggle with poverty and suffer abandonment and the effect is that we will find ourselves on a path that leads to maturity, prayer, wisdom, and Christ-likeness. If, however, we choose to avoid engagement and community with those who suffer, we will certainly live an incomplete life, including an incomplete spiritual life.
To put it rightly, I think, the practice of prayer and the practice of compassion are both necessary and complementary spiritual practices. We are called to be both activists and mystics, missionaries of love and contemplatives, great lovers and deep thinkers. And, in all of that, the spiritual journey can happen; in all of that, we can be made whole; in all of that, the world can be made whole. Personal transformation and social transformation are one piece.
The true spiritual quest is not that I become whole. Informed by the belief that the world is birthed by God and is precious and sacred and one, the true spiritual quest is that the world become whole—and we along with it.