“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 NIV
No big deal, right? You’re just supposed to be perfect—as the holy, righteous God of the entire universe is perfect.
Piece of cake?
Yeah, not so much.
If you were to make yourself perfect, where would you even start? God is perfect because no sin, or wrongdoing, exists in Him. We’re not talking about the world’s idea of perfection here—perfect clothes, a perfect house, a perfect spouse. What we’re talking about is so much higher than that. You would need to be sinless. No lying, no cursing, no snapping at the kids, or “borrowing” your friend’s Netflix password.
So, you say, “Sure. I can do that.” And you do. You clean up your act. You obey the speed limit. You give to the poor. You pay for Netflix yourself. And you do this for days, then weeks, then months, then years.
But you still wouldn’t be perfect.
See, there’s the small matter of the sins you’ve already committed. Like James 2:10 says, if you keep every law in God’s Word, but fail once, you’re on the hook for every law in the book. It doesn’t matter how perfect your current behavior is. No effort on your part can make up for those past sins. On your own, Matthew 5:48 is unobtainable.
So, where do you go from here?
In Matthew 19, a wealthy young man found himself facing this difficulty. He asked Jesus what he should do to get eternal life. Jesus told him to obey the commandments. He shouldn’t murder, or commit adultery, or steal, or lie. He should honor his father and mother and love his neighbor as himself. The young man, though, said that he had kept each of those commandments. To which Jesus replied:
… “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew 19:21-22 NIV
Jesus wasn’t telling the young man that becoming perfect was a two-step plan. First, obey the commandments, and second, give away all your stuff. Jesus was saying the path to perfection starts with getting rid of whatever might keep a person from following Him.
But perfect? How could anyone be perfect? This is not the world’s kind of perfect. It’s so much better. When you choose to follow Christ, He covers your sins and imperfections with the death He died on the cross. In God’s eyes, you become every bit as perfect as Christ Himself is perfect. And that’s the sort of perfection Matthew 5:48 is talking about.