When we are commanded to be perfect, how? Just how?
// Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:48 //
Recently I was chatting with one of my small group friends about our study of the Gospels we are going through. He had finished Matthew 5 and shared something profound:
"Matthew 5:48 is a slippery slope for me. It has taken me 35 years to accept that I will never be perfect."
I try to have an immediate response; to be studied well enough to offer something. Not to be the sole voice of authority, but as a teacher I love to find what might be the answer and share it for us to process and ponder together.
Only I had nothing profound to say. Truth be told, I've struggled with that verse, too, and chose to bypass getting understanding whenever it came up.
But not that day. The challenge was accepted for me to replace the lie I'd been reading this as with Truth.
I did what any seminary grad is taught: pulled out my faithful Strong's Concordance and went to the root of the word.
Here's what I found:
Perfect doesn't mean what you think it means. We think it means something like 100% holy and righteous and never making a mistake. No, no, no. That Greek word for perfect in Matthew 5:48 is teleios, which means brought to its end, finished, mature like an adult. So the call is NOT to be 100% never failing, but to be matured.
The most beautiful thing I realized this Resurrection season? Teleo is the same word (different tense) Jesus uses when we translate His final words as 'it is finished' on the cross.
And in that context of Matthew 5:43-48, where Jesus commands us to love our enemies, not just our friends, as even sinners can love their friends easily, it is a call to be mature, an adult, when it comes to our enemies.
Like Jesus said, anyone can love those who love them. Think of kids. My 2 and 3 year old will tell me I'm not their friend if they don't like my answer of 'no' when they want dessert every night. That's childish.
But being an adult is loving is an action, a choice in response, because love is how we act, not a feeling. So as mature adults, we walk in the fruit of the Spirit towards others, not how we feel.
How, then, is God maturing you into what He deems as perfect growth?