Being perfect - even just one thing

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

Most of us would just as soon slide right over this command, wouldn't we?  At the very least, we want to interpret it in a way that cuts us at least a bit of slack. 

What does it mean - being perfect like God???

I don't know.

But let's unpack it together and see if we can gain some insight into what Jesus is saying.

Here are my thoughts....

1.  Jesus is speaking; the disciple Mathew is transcribing.
2.  The word used for "perfect"  in the original Greek text is "teleio".  It means perfect, complete.  It is not used when describing sinlessness - that word is "anamartetos".
3.  Although Jesus is not calling for perfection in the sense of no sin, He does set the standard "as your Heavenly Father is perfect".
4,  What does the "therefore" refer to?  Context, as always, is key.  So let's look at the verses preceding this command to be perfect....

In verses 17-20 Jesus astonishes His listeners by throwing out their standard for religious perfection - the behavior of the Scribes and Pharisees.  He says that such righteousness is not enough to gain entrance into God's Kingdom.  Instead, He says, one must have righteousness that surpasses it.

Verses 21-47 set up a comparison of what that day's religious leaders proclaimed ("You have heard...") and what God requires ("But I say...")

21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.31 It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.38 You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
43 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Anger, retaliation, insults, adultery, marriage, integrity, restitution, how to treat enemies...Jesus sets the bar high - our standard is HIM.

He goes after our hearts, rather than our behavior.  He displays the perfection of loving God and loving others in His own life, fulfilling perfectly every command of God's Law.

And He expects us to do the same.

How in the world can we do that?

Only by His life in us living out through us.
That's the only way.

When we pursue Christ, He will fulfill His law of love through us.

It's not mystical nor does it require nothing of us.  We must cooperate with His grace that He makes available to work in us and through us.  We must obey - by His power - what He shows us to do.

But make no mistake about it - He desires perfection in us, just  as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

Suggestion - ask Him today to help us obey vs 47.  Just look for opportunities to speak to more than just our friends.  My original intent for today's post was just that verse but I couldn't write about that without the context of the whole message.  So, in our pursuit of perfection today -- of the goal of being like our Heavenly Father -- let's try this one thing.  When we are at Publix or the soccer field or at church today, let's make a point to greet and visit with and love on more than just our inner circle.

It might just make a really big difference in someone else's life.

It will definitely expand our hearts.

And I know our Heavenly Father will be pleased.