Imagine being perfect.
Think about a life without hurting or being hurt. Of not disappointing others. Of making choices that are always good and wise. Of pleasing God and neighbors. What would it be like to care for others with a complete and ongoing integrity? To trust and to be trusted without any hesitation?
We would be free from ugly habits and stubborn addictions. All our relationships would be enriched as friends and neighbors started to enjoy us as never before. No clouds of conscience would float over us or wishes for new starts plague us.
So here’s an invitation: pursue perfection! It’s a real prospect and may be coming very soon. What’s more, for those of us who know Christ it’s already starting to take place.
Is this just a flight of fancy? No. It’s a certainty for all of us who know Christ. It’s called “hope”.
Listen to the Bible here: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
Talk about a vision of the future! This little verse is like a roadmap to what we long for but don’t dare treat as a real prospect. The apostle confronts and corrects our pessimism with a promise.
But first let’s consider what biblical hope does not mean. It is not the promise of future harp-strumming on an everlasting cloud. Nor is it the promise of our gaining omniscience along with any other divine capacities. Or the fantasy of an eternal haven for hedonists.
The Bible, instead, gives us the hope of a new heaven and a new earth—a tangible and lively place—completely free of the curse and decay that came with sin. We will delight to walk once again with God and with each other while gardening and tending to the creation as Adam was invited to do in Eden.
This future is glimpsed in 2 Peter 3:11-13; in the final chapters of Isaiah; and in the finale of John’s Revelation. So the old, broken, and imperfect world of today—shattered as it is by Adam’s independence and God’s judgment—is only temporary. Our hope lies beyond the present realm.
The promise of 1 John 3 is that Jesus displayed the pristine life of heaven. He is, indeed, God’s Son, but he is also wholly human in every way; but without the moral faults we expect of humanity. We need to recall that beneath any of our particular sins is the single impulse of self-love. So Jesus’ perfection is seen in his relationships. Where Adam broke his bond of love with God, Jesus did the opposite, maintaining his bond with the Father even to the point of enduring the cross; and, in that, he demonstrated his perfect love for us.
John 17 gives the clearest exposure to what lies ahead in Jesus’ conversation with the Father. It was both a reminisce—looking back to “the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (v.5)—and an anticipation of offering his followers the chance “to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (v.24).
Paul understood this hope of coming “glory” as the relational space within the love of the Triune God. We who know and love God are invited to look beyond the decay of this present estate to “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Paul pressed the point by addressing our present struggle with habitual sins: we “groan inwardly as we await for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (vs. 23-24).
Let’s return to the vision of 1 John 3:2-3. The apostle knew that our present struggle with sin is not solved by our working to be “good”. Instead we become like the one we love. The focus of our soul’s gaze—the pristine and loving Jesus—reshapes our desires in alignment with his own.
So our hope is not uncertain. Rather it’s a certainty based on God’s promise that the glory of his eternal mutual love has enough space in it for us. It’s a perfect community and Jesus plans to change our hearts to be able to fit in.