Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matt. 5:48
So there is it. That verse. One that we brush past, disregard, promise to think about sometime in the future when we have made more spiritual progress in our lives.
The Greek word for “perfect” in Matt. 5:48 is teleioi, which modern scholars associate more with completeness or maturity, than our inclination to relate it to flawlessness.
Before beginning to unpack the word “perfect” with its myriad implications, let’s get one thing straight: This is a command. Christ was not making a suggestion. He did not wink as he said it as if to imply, “I know this isn’t possible for most of you, but it was in my script.” Just as he said be humble (Matt. 18:4), or be kind (Col 3:12), this state of being is not optional based on our spiritual gifts or life circumstances or personalities.
Christ did not say, “Think about being perfect,” or “Study how to be perfect,” or “Buy some books on how to be perfect,” or even, “Put being perfect on your prayer list.” He did not say that someday in heaven you might be perfect. He said be perfect. Today. No excuses. No procrastinating. Just be. We do not need a seminary degree, a family legacy of holiness, or bookshelf full of Bible studies to be perfect. We simply need prayerful obedience.
So you may be thinking you are off the hook on this one because there is no way you can live your life without error, or even live one day without making a mistake. You are not off the hook because that is not what Jesus meant.
Think of how you use the word perfect in daily life. You may have just seen a perfect sunset. Or eaten a perfect piece of apple pie. Or held your perfect newborn daughter. Those things were not flawless. They were simply existing as they were designed to exist. In the moment you experienced them, they impacted you in a way that could not have been improved upon.
God wants you to be perfect. He wants your thoughts, actions, words, and affections to create such a beautiful slice of humanity that others will say, “Wow, look what God can do.” He wants you to be able to look past your errors and self-condemnation and see what he sees. He wants your unique strengths and passions to guide the course of your life as you draw closer to him.
A perfect Christ-follower is not one who never errs, but one who is mature and complete.
Jesus, this one is tough. I don’t understand what it means to be perfect, let alone how to begin. But I know your word is alive and active (Heb. 4:12) and your Spirit is available to teach me right now (John 14:26). Please open my mind and heart to be obedient to you in this matter. Thank you for your loving care as you change my life. Amen.
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