“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48
Growing up, I felt this was one of those verses that Jesus didn’t really mean or expect us to live. It was just there to sound good. As a kid, I knew I sinned; preachers always told me I was a sinner, and stuck as one until I die. They said that being perfect alludes everyone this side of Heaven…
Or does it?
“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” – Romans 6:18
But what about a verse like this? This verse tells me that I am free from sin. In fact, much of the New Testament tells me that sin has no power in my life if I am in Christ. Could there be more to the Christian life than, “Hi, my name is ______ and I am a sinner saved by grace”?
There are entire church denominations who view themselves as a worm before God, and on this side of eternity, forever exist as a worm. But perhaps the analogy should be that we are caterpillars instead of worms, for caterpillars grow toward an end goal of beautiful perfection… in this life. Because if we cannot grow to actually look like Christ in this life, then we really don’t have power over sin, and Jesus’ command to be Perfect is completely unattainable. And the last time I checked, Jesus gives us an attainable burden, easy to carry… (Matthew 11:29)
But on being Perfect… I don’t believe that being perfect means we are 100% sin free, but free from sins that ensnare us, meaning willful, habitual sins present in our lives. And Jesus’ call to be Perfect comes in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, right after He talks about anger, lust, and divorce. To be Perfect as God is Perfect is to be Perfect in love. And if we are growing closer to Christ throughout our lives (the technical term is “sanctification”), being Perfect comes easier than you think.
There is no striving in moving toward perfection. Goodness requires trying… But being Perfect comes from the transformation that Christ works in your life. Yet in order for Him to work, you must submit all of your life to Him, calling Him Lord of your entire life!
Jesus didn’t come to make you good but to make you Perfect. That requires Jesus to strip you of your sin, to bind up your wounds, and to teach you how to love.
But you have to be willing to lay down all of your sins, and therein lies most people’s dilemma…
“Perfection adheres to the letter of the law. Perfect delves deeper into the law’s intent and embraces its wisdom.”1
Be ye Perfect!
1 Perfect 2011 KingdomTide Reader http://blogs.asburyseminary.edu/asbury-reader/2011/10/20/thursday-october-20/