You Are to Be Perfect
“But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” ~ Matthew 5:48
“WHAT? No way!” I suppose that’s what most of us would say to Jesus if He said that to us!
Perfect in the Greek is teleios, meaning brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness; perfected human integrity and virtue.
Obviously, we cannot be perfect in the sense that we are without flaw or sin. However, there must be a degree of perfection Christ insists upon, otherwise He would not have included it here. This verse comes at the conclusion of the first of three chapters devoted to the Sermon on the Mount. Much of what Jesus talks about in His sermon requires a high level of integrity. Integrity also means completeness – along with purity. It means I actually possess the inward character I say I have. What’s on the inside matches what’s on the outside. I say I love Jesus and go to church and tithe. I say I read my bible and pray five times a day. Do I secretly harbor hatred for my neighbor? Jesus equates that with murder. Do I secretly lust after someone? He equates that with adultery. Do I think I am holy and righteous yet only love those who love me or only do the bear minimums when serving others? Jesus says I am no different than an unbeliever. My inward character does not match my outward declarations in the above examples. That is not integrity.
Perfection requires going above and beyond my current standard of what I consider to be enough. Paul says in Philippians 3: 12-14:
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Though focusing on this one thing can mean forgetting the mistakes, sins, and regrets of the past, I believe it also means letting go of a mindset which says, “that’s good enough.” No! It’s not enough! We must always be reaching for a higher standard of perfection of Christ-like character. “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.'” [1 Peter 1:15,16]
The more Christ-like we become, the better our vision becomes. “Blessed are the pure in heart,” says Jesus in Matthew 5:8, “for they shall see God.” When I strive for Christ-likeness, I am striving for perfection. This is what makes me perfect in God’s eyes now as a sinner saved by grace. Striving for this kind of perfection purifies me and clears away the dullness from my spiritual eyes so I can see God for who He is.
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 1:6]
Thankfully, God is committed to bringing us to perfection, even though we may not be too excited about how He does it at times! Like now, in the midst of a virus crisis. Our faith is being tested in many ways. Are we responding in a Christ-like manner to each hardship imposed upon us? Where does the needle fall on a scale of 1 to 10?
The more Christ-like we become, the more our light shines before men and brings glory to our Father in heaven. Never stop seeking perfection. Never say, “Enough!”