46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
If there isn’t a passage of the bible that will easily offend us, this one does the trick. I hate this passage because it truly reveals my sinfulness. However, I love it because it makes me think, “What is Jesus getting at?” We cannot read this passage and only think about its implications superficially. We must dig into exactly what Jesus means by being perfect. Usually, these few verses are coupled with the previous about loving our enemies, however I have divided them so we can really dig into what it means to be perfect. Again, I’d like to introduce Luke’s interpretation of Jesus’ speech from chapter 6:
31 “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 35 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
We are reminded of the beatitude that tells us to be merciful and we will receive mercy. We are reminded of God’s mercy He has upon us. Jesus reveals that our love is conditional, but we must work that our love becomes unconditional. Our love should only be conditional to the love that God poured out upon us even though we didn’t deserve it. Think about what 1 John 4 says:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
We see that in receiving and giving God’s love, we become, “perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.” We become perfected in His love. Not only is this important, but it is essential for the Christian walk. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that without love, we are nothing. In Luke 6:31, Jesus says we should treat others the way we want to be treated. This has been coined the “golden rule.” It is the golden rule not because it is cast into gold nor does it win us money from other people; it is the golden rule because it makes us rich with life. I struggle with perfectionism, however I have begun to learn that these extreme problems we have as humans are also things God has put inside us. He created us, so to think that my perfectionism (in this instance) is not from God is a bit of a slap in the face to Him. It is something God has put inside of me but has been misused and misdirected. He tells us here that He does want us to strive to be perfect: in love.
This world has conditioned us to think that if we are a “good person” then we are doing ok. Even back then, we can see by Jesus’ words in Matthew that man thought this way. Ok, so we are a good person: we take care of our family, we go to church and tithe, we give to the poor…but what about that one guy you work with that you just cannot stand and wish would get fired? Jesus points out our conditional love. Even serial killers love people, but giving birthday gifts to your kids and sitting in a pew on Sundays doesn’t make you good. God’s love makes us good and perfect and as followers of Christ, this should be our goal.
Our other stumbling block is our mindset of, “well, I’m not perfect I’m only human.” WRONG. You are a son or daughter of the Most High God endowed with His living Spirit. You are not only human, you are a prince or princess of the Kingdom of God and you have no excuses not to act as such. This is why God gives us the Holy Spirit, so that we may live freely in His Kingdom and surpass that limitation. Next time that thought creeps into our mind or we begin to say it, let’s change it to, “I’m not perfect, but I’m working on it!” There are a ton of verses on God’s love and us working to be perfected in it. We have no excuse and we cannot say that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He is perfection and He poured it out for us to enjoy. His Kingdom is perfection and He has given us the keys to enter it. Jesus is the embodiment of the Kingdom and walked perfection as an example to us. He was perfected in love and if we truly call ourselves Christians, then we must be working to follow His example.