Be perfect

Not long ago I had the privilege of taking a closer look to parts of chapter 17 of Allan Kardec’s Gospel according to spiritism. Before diving into this wonderful chapter, I thought it would make sense to spend a little time on Gospel of Matthew to get some context.

We are at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, after he pronounced the beatitudes on the mount.

14 You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house.16 Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5 (World English Bible)

Each one of us has some light inside. Everyone has something good to give. Let us make our best to let our light shine, however small it might be! Every little act of goodness in our daily life is a step in the right direction. Greeting someone with a smile, saying encouraging words can make the difference and lead to more acts of goodness.

21 You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be in danger of the judgment; and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’[i] will be in danger of the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.
Matthew 5 (World English Bible)

[i] “Raca” is an Aramaic insult, related to the word for “empty” and conveying the idea of empty-headedness.

Here, Jesus goes a whole lot further than what was prescribed by the law of Moses. At the time it was given, not killing your neighbour for whatever reason was already an improvement, considering the violence that was common in these days. Jesus says that anger and aggressiveness are just as bad.

23 If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5 (World English Bible)

External rituals were a first step, but more is required. It is of no use to come to the altar trying to please God with a sacrifice if we do not reconcile ourselves with our brother or sister. The values inside of our heart is more important than external, superficial gestures. As was already explained by the prophet Micah in those beautiful words:

6 How shall I come before Yahweh, and bow myself before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams? With tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my disobedience? 8 He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6 (World English Bible)

Act justly in all situations, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. This is our goal and the way to the light, as exemplified in the life of Jesus.

27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ 28 but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Matthew 5 (World English Bible)

Not committing adultery was a first step. Now, we should to watch our thoughts and desires. What we cultivate within is important. This requires an inner moral transformation.

43 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.
Matthew 5 (World English Bible)

Instead of seeking retribution and vengeance, we should do good to everyone, even when they have wronged us. For God, in his infinite patience and goodness, keeps giving us good things and waiting for our progress, despite our repeated mistakes and rebellions.

46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5 (World English Bible)

Here we need to make a clarification: God is the absolute perfection over anything. We humans can only reach a relative level of perfection. As his creatures, we can reach the top of the ladder that leads us to a close relationship with God. But we will never be as perfect as Him. Jesus phrased it like that because the people at that time wouldn’t have grasped the nuance.

Characteristics of perfection

How is this perfection that we need to reach? As Jesus said:

“In loving one’s enemies, in doing good to those who hate us, in praying for those who persecute us.”.

This way, he shows us that the essence of perfection is charity in its most ample form, because it implies the practice of all the other virtues.

Vices, and even simple defects, have their origin in selfishness and pride, which are the negation of charity.

The elements of true charity are: benevolence, indulgence, abnegation and devotion. Hence, our degree of perfection is in direct relation to the extent of this love, the charity that we are capable of exercising.

The good person

In this amazing section, Kardec summarises the main characteristics of a good person.

The truly good person is one who:

– complies with the laws of justice, love and charity in their highest degree of purity

– deposits his faith in God, in His goodness, in His justice and in His wisdom

– knows that without His permission nothing can happen. So he submits himself in all things to His will

– has faith in the future, which is the reason to put spiritual possessions before those of a temporary nature

– knows that all vicissitudes of life, all pain and all deceptions are trials or atonements and accepts them without murmuring

– does good for the sake of goodness, without waiting for payment of any kind

– repays evil with good, takes up the defense of the weak against the strong

– always sacrifices his own interests in the name of justice

– does not harbour rancour, hate nor yet desire vengeance

– studies his own imperfections and works unceasingly to combat them, using all their strength, so that tomorrow he will be able to say that he is just a little better than he was the day before

– uses, but do not abuse, the possessions which have been conceded to him

– is clement with others’ weaknesses, because he knows that he needs clemency for his as well

Wow, what a program!

The list is not complete, I merely selected a few items from the section.

Even so, Kardec concludes with the following:

These are not all the qualities which distinguish a good person, but anyone who tries hard to possess those which have been mentioned will find themselves on the road which leads to all the rest.
Allan Kardec, Gospel according to spiritism, chapter 17, item 3

I think it is important to mention here that this is a process, we are on a road to perfection. We can sometimes feel discouraged when seeing the sublime examples of a good, perfected person, considering how far we are from it. But change takes time, we move forward step by step. We should be able to look back a few months or a few years back, compare our behaviour back then with now and see some positive changes.

The good spiritist

Interestingly, Kardec relates his experience and characterises what is good and what is imperfect when following spiritism.

Spiritism, when thoroughly understood and above all when deeply and sincerely felt, leads to the results already expounded, which characterize the true Spiritist just as much as the true Christian, for they are one and the same.

Spiritism does not institute any new morals; it only makes it easier for mankind to understand and practice Christ’s morals by giving an unshakable and enlightened faith to those who are in doubt or who waver.
Allan Kardec, Gospel according to spiritism, chapter 17, item 4

When we really integrate the values and knowledge that spiritism brings, it gives us an unshakeable faith, because it is based on reason and logic.

The true spiritist can be recognised by their moral transformation and by the efforts they employ in order to dominate their bad instincts. He makes every effort to liberate himself and always manages to do this when their desire is strong and true.
Allan Kardec, Gospel according to spiritism, chapter 17, item 4

A true encounter with the doctrine brings about visible changes in one’s life. A change in the heart and the behaviours. If we actually make enough effort, we succeed. How many times do we stay stuck because our will is too weak?

The imperfect spiritist

In some people, material ties are still too strong for them to be able to release themselves from earthly things.

They believe in Spirits as a simple fact. But this modifies none or very few of their instinctive tendencies.

The phenomenon touches them more than the morality, which seems to them to be hackneyed and monotonous. They ask only that the Spirits unceasingly initiate new mysteries[…].
Allan Kardec, Gospel according to spiritism, chapter 17, item 4

Some people are more interested in the medial phenomena out of curiosity or interest. They want to get news or knowledge from the other side, without taking note of the moral changes that the communications bring.

Nevertheless, the acceptance of the fundamental principles of the doctrine is the first step, from which it will be easier for them to take a second step in a future life.
Allan Kardec, Gospel according to spiritism, chapter 17, item 4

It is however a first step that will help their progress in the future. If this is what some are ready to accept, it is ok. More will come later.

Nothing is useless, and the opportunities to learn are many. It is up to us to seize them.

Summary

In these few sections, we saw how Jesus calls us to working more inside our hearts than on the outside. The times for the external rites are over. He encourages us to learn to love, forgive, help each other.

Each one of us has a light that can shine and produce good things around us! Let’s start in our daily life, with small things that will contribute to making the world a better place!

The ability to love and practice charity brings us forward on the scale of evolution.

God is infinitely just, good and merciful! He wants our happiness in reaching the perfection that He predestined us for. Let us have a little more faith and see that everything that happens to us is a gift for our progress toward the light, even if at first it might not seem so!

The peace of the Lord be with you.

1 thought on “Be perfect”

  1. I loved that you’ve put here that study about perfection! It’s something extremely important to me and it taught me a lot! Thank you for that!

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