Read Matthew 5:33-48
Today's reading gives us another glimpse into the heart of the teachings of Jesus, another chunk of that greatest sermon ever – the Sermon on the Mount. Throughout this entire chapter, Jesus covers a multitude of issues… from attitudes to adultery, from salt and light to anger and revenge.
Which brings us to our focus for today. I chose this particular verse to highlight because it’s one that has always sounded a little odd, if not impossible, to obey. Have a look…
But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect. ~ Matthew 5:48
Now I don't know about you, but I certainly know about me, and I am not perfect... nowhere near perfect... can barely even spell the word “perfect.” Just ask my kids. They can give you a list, either alphabetically or chronologically, of my many imperfections. And my reply to them is always the same, “You love me and you know it!” (besides, I CAN make a mean chocolate chip cookie).
But Jesus isn't telling us to live our lives exclaiming our imperfections and hiding behind our human-ness. He's telling us to be perfect. But what exactly does that mean? Let me tell you about a valuable lesson I learned a few years ago…
When I was in university, I had to take certain “Book Study” classes – classes where one particular book of the Bible was chosen and dissected chapter by chapter, verse by verse for the duration of the semester. I'll never forget my first day in one of these classes. While I can’t remember the professor's name, there was one thing he did that first day of class that I'll never forget. After introducing us to his particular book of the Bible, he picked up his chalk and turned to the blackboard.
When reading any verse in the Bible, he began; there are 3 things you must always consider. If you remember nothing else from this class, you must never forget these 3 things. Well, as you can imagine, the whole class sat up straight with pencils poised, tape recorders in hand. And then he started to write. The 3 things you must always consider when reading ANY passage in the Bible are ... (you could almost hear a drum roll in the class) ... context, context, context. A good lesson that I've never forgotten. So you can probably guess where I’m going next. That's right. We need to uncover the context in which Jesus made that “impossible” statement about being perfect.
The verses that lead up to His statement all have to deal with how we handle a certain type of relationship. Jesus is instructing us to love our enemies.
Let's take a look at a couple of the verses preceding this one very difficult one. Reading from The Message Bible, let's start at verse 44:
When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives His best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. ~ Matthew 5:44
Now it's starting to make more sense. I am to strive to be like Him Who is perfect – Almighty God. Now let's catch up to our focus verse in The Message paraphrase:
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 toward others, the way God lives toward you. ~ Matthew 5:48
Our outward actions and our inward attitudes should reflect Perfection – our Heavenly Father. As Oswald Chambers said, If the Spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit divine characteristics in your life, not just good human characteristics.
God knows we’re not perfect. He REALLY knows. In fact, it was while we were in our imperfection that Jesus died for us. He just doesn’t want us to stay that way, all wrapped up and comfortable in the rags of our deficiency.
As the book of Hebrews encourages us, let's throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us. Let's run in freedom on this road called perfection to the One Who is Perfect. Jesus isn't commanding us to do the impossible. He's calling us to experience the incredible… in our daily walk with Him.
This journey to perfection isn't easy, but it isn't lonely either. He is with you every step of the way.
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