“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”—Matthew 5:48 (NIV).
Confession time. I’m a Christian, but not perfect. I make mistakes and I mess up—sometimes big time. But God’s grace is bigger than my sins. And, for that, I am grateful.
As a recovering perfection seeker, I know what it’s like to strive to do and to be perfect. The only thing I accomplished, in the end, was my own unhappiness. The more I tried, the more I was burdened to maintain what I thought being perfect meant—”a state of flawlessness, without defect.” For humans, that is impossible.
Matthew 5:48, however, can be puzzling to some. It was for me until I read the commentary and read different translations of this verse. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is talking to His disciples. When I read the translation of this verse in “The Message,” it made more sense to me: “In a word, what I’m saying is, ‘Grow up.’ You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Living Out Our God-created Identity
In a commentary written by Phil Gons, and titled, “Does Matthew 5:48 Require Sinless Perfection?” he writes, “It’s then often used as a hermeneutical (analytical) key to understanding the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. In this view, Jesus is not laying out the way of life for His followers. Instead, He is setting the bar so far out of their reach that they must turn to Him for mercy and find acceptance in his righteousness.”
While we can strive for holy perfection, it’s impossible without God. He is the One who provides mercy. We can’t love others as ourselves, be generous and gracious toward others, especially our enemies, without God’s Holy Spirit.
The Contemporary English Version of Matthew 5:48 reads, “But you must always act like your Father in heaven.” I find that intimidating. Always act like God. Impossible. Yes. But when we “grow up,” as the version of “The Message” translation says, we crave the Word and come a step closer to the goal Jesus set out for His followers.
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SOURCE: Assist News Service, Carol Round