Jesus said, “You, therefore, are to be perfect – as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
— Matthew 5:48 (USC)
Discipleship – a much confused word – is confused in this statement of Jesus’, surely? For, discipleship is as much, and more, about progress in the Christian life as it is about perfection. But there is one perfection that Jesus has in sight in this teaching.
Perhaps Jesus can be imagined to say, “Be perfect... in purity of heart... in lowness of spirit... as a peacemaker... as your heavenly Father is perfect in that way.”
Maybe this ending of chapter 5 is simply a hearkening of the believer back to its beginning; to the Beatitudes of verses 3-12?
All of chapter 5 seems to be about the heart of matters. All of what Jesus says in verses 20–48 seems to transcend the Law, which doesn’t make the Law unimportant or insignificant.
We are to meet the Law, but our hearts are to underpin it. We are not to apply the Law without caring how or why.
To do what is right in the eyes of God we need to think in ways that bless the community. We are never apart from our human relations. We are human because of them!
So perfection in spiritual terms so far as the Lord is concerned is not about being faultless of deeds, but it’s about being faultless of heart – an achievable idea only when we rely upon, and have surrendered obediently, to our Lord.
What is our task? We miss the point if we think in terms of task.
Connecting the dots is contingent on being not doing. But in being our doing is massively influenced. Our attitudes dictate – to a great degree – our actions. We cannot divorce the two; attitudes and actions.
Being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect simply means this: obey without thought, ply faith without hesitation, and God’s Spirit will direct one’s path in the perfection of a single action.
Our only task is to believe – once we obey, belief is possible.
The end is at the beginning. Perfection is achieved in the simplest event of doing the will of God. Nothing is better.
If we do the will of God we have perfected our relation to the moment.
When we string moments together like this we are perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. There is but one difference; we are the vassal. We are forever needy of the discernment of God’s will – and perfection is to do that which God would have us do.
Perfection in God’s economy is no impossible thing.
QUESTIONS in REVIEW:
1. Is it true that you have fallen for the romantic idea that perfection was possible? But how is Jesus’ perfection an upside down perfection?
2. The Christian life of discipleship is much less about trying and much more about training. What are you able to deduce from such an idea for your own journey of following Jesus?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Note: USC version is Under the Southern Cross, The New Testament in Australian English (2014). This translation was painstakingly developed by Dr. Richard Moore, a NT Greek scholar, over nearly thirty years.