“But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48.
The crowd listening to the Sermon on the Mount did not expect what they got. The audience came away surprised, and you can understand why. The Sermon on the Mount is full of radical teachings like loving and praying for our enemies. But to sum it all up, Jesus concludes with one line: “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” Perfect? Me? Certainly not a simple, or realistic command.
Perfection is just impossible. Even the best of us fall far short of that goal. Christians included. We can strive to be a perfectly good, moral rule-abiding person, but we quickly stub our toe or fail miserably. No matter how much effort we invest, or how good our intentions are, our sin nature will eventually surface and sabotage our quest for perfection.
God created life, He alone gets to define it. So we need to find out what exactly Jesus meant by “perfection.” The perfection Jesus prescribes for us is somewhat of a paradox; in that, it is already complete and yet still developing. Complete in Him; still at work in us. Colossians 2:10 says, “So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” Isaiah 64:8 adds, “And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.” We are still a work in progress.
Perfection is referring to spiritual maturity. Jesus doesn’t care so much if you have a big house, or a nice car or straight teeth. He’s interested in our spiritual maturity. As John writes in 1 John 3:18-20, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.”
In other words, Jesus focuses not on us being perfect, but on loving. And even though apart from Jesus, no one is capable of living a morally perfect life – our focus is to be fully, completely, and perfectly devoted to a relationship with God. God’s love should overflow into our interactions with others. And that includes our enemies who wrong us.
We should not be discouraged when we fall short of perfection. Our goal should be to love God as He loves us – not to live perfect lives. And as we walk with God in relationship, we will see God begin to transform our lives, and love other in a Christlike way.
- Consider Matthew 5:48 as an ultimate challenge. Being “perfect” means to be mature or complete in Christ. What would it take for a person to meet that ultimate challenge?
- What kinds of behaviors do you demonstrate to other people to let them know that you love them?