Jesus Christ said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, NASB)
Bumper stickers today proclaim, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”
Henry Ford said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.” If Mr. Ford was right, our understanding and attitude determines our success. In fact, our actions are always a result of our thinking. Think right, act right. The Scriptures challenge us to transform our mind (Romans 12:1), and implore us to bring every thought into conformity with the mind of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). The ploy of Satan is to blind the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4). If our goal is to follow Christ, it is important that we think right about this imperative He gave us.
Imagine being in the crowd that day as Jesus sat teaching his followers. Hear the joyous assents as He proclaimed God’s blessings on the poor, the mourners, and the merciful. Listen to the murmurs and gasps as He explained the Law. Feel the unbelief as He called us to be light and salt to the world, and sense the hope as He described a world of real love toward our neighbors. And the ... disbelief, perhaps protests, as He said simply, “Be perfect. Because your Father is.”
I understand that “perfect” can mean “whole,” or “mature,” or “complete.” It can also mean “corresponding to an ideal standard” or “faithfully reproducing the original.” Whatever slight nuance we put on the word, it remains quite a challenge. I suggest that Jesus was saying something like, “You should each be a faithful reproduction of the heart and character of God your Father,” or simply, “Like Father, like son.”
This is not an argument for or against sinless perfection. It is not a debate about soteriology or what constitutes “saving faith.” I’m not even addressing how one might attain Heaven. I’m simply suggesting that - in the here and now, in our daily lives - we take the statement of Jesus seriously.
I suggest we rethink our position and replace our bumper stickers. Maybe something like, “My Father’s perfect, and I want to be like Him.” Or “Jesus told me to be perfect. How am I doing?”
Is Jesus’ statement aspirational? I’m sure. Is it possible? Why not give it a serious effort, and share your experience with me?