Perfect Through Sufferings
Ruth Jacob
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Hebrews 2:10, New King James Version

Personal progress in piety, development of character, finally leading to perfection, is the aspiration of the truly spiritual person, and should be the aim of all of us. Even Jesus had to become perfect through His own suffering, particularly His suffering on the cross, and just like Him, this argument goes, we all will progress towards, and finally attain, perfection through our suffering our own "crosses".

If that is true, our "perfection" is dependent not only on our own strivings, but on our personal intrinsic capacity to engage in those struggles and our inner stamina to sustain the effort. Or, if the suffering comes without our choosing, reaching perfection depends on our resilience, on our ability not to crumble under the pressure - physically, mentally or morally. In either case, the success of the journey leading to our perfection depends on our being strong enough to actually make that journey.

This is an argument from the cross of Jesus: how could it possibly be wrong? Because it denies the uniqueness and nature of Jesus's crucifixion. Because it reduces Jesus's suffering and death to a pattern that we should and can replicate. Because it says that Jesus's death was a selfish act, primarily for His own attainment of perfection, and not for us (except perhaps, incidentally, as an example). Because it says that the first shall be first and the last last. Because it denies Jesus as the only saviour, or even as a saviour at all, if everything depends on our endurance and persistence. Because it denies Jesus as the shepherd seeking the weakest sheep, the very one that is unable to find his own way home.

Perfection in an absolute, abstract sense is not what the author had in mind, anyway. That was a Greek philosophical concept; quite foreign to the revelation YHWH gave to the Jews, and the ways of thinking that arose as a result of that revelation. "Perfection" as a concept is so vague as to be meaningless. Let's look at this in terms of simple geometry: if you see a flat shape with four straight edges of exactly equal length which are joined by four true right angles you'd be right to call it perfect - but whilst it does fine as a perfect square, as a circle it fails miserably. YHWH is interested in reality, not meaningless abstractions, so a statement that Jesus was or became perfect should draw the question, "Perfect as what?" The context provides the answer to this: "to make the captain of their salvation perfect ...". Just as a perfect circle can only become perfect as a square by giving up its circular characteristics, so Jesus, perfect though He already was in many respects, had chosen to take on perfection as the one who brings salvation: this He could never do without His suffering. "He became the finished Saviour only in the finished salvation."1

By giving up even the semblance of god-like perfection - immortality, omnipotence, grandeur - He became the truly perfect saviour, the captain of a salvation that will leave no one and nothing outside. And that is a kind of perfection that means something for the real world. Let's finish by seeing how that sentence comes out in Green's Literal Translation:

For it was fitting for Him, because of whom are all things, and through whom are all things, bringing many sons to glory, to perfect Him as the Author of their salvation through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10)

1 The Cruciality of the Cross - P.T. Forsyth