Updated: Oct 12, 2020
"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
If your Bible is a red-letter Bible - meaning Jesus' words are in red - look at Matthew chapters 5-7. The entire pages are red with His words. These chapters are known as the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:48 tells us we are to be perfect.
What? We are? How on earth?
The definition of perfect is:
1. having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.
2. absolute; complete.
I am currently studying 1 Peter. He tells us But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, "You must be holy because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15,16) I then went to Leviticus 11:44,45; 19:2; and 20:7. Scripture very clearly tells God's people they are to be holy. And that we are to be holy because He is holy.
When we think of the word "holy" we perhaps think of someone who is a "holy roller" or a "Jesus freak." These are often thought of as derogatory terms. So let's define the word holy first. It means to be "set apart" for a special purpose. When you read the word holy, immediately think what we are set apart from but also what we are set apart to. We are set apart to God. We are set apart from sin and impurity.
We are told we must be holy in everything we do. This is a command. It is an imperative. It applied when Peter wrote it and it applies to us today. When I read 1 Peter 1:15,16 I immediately thought of Jesus telling us we are to be perfect in Matthew 5:48. It too is an authoritative command.
In Matthew 5:48 Jesus' last word on this passage of Scripture about how we should behave in our personal relationships is to tell us to be perfect. Christ sets up a high ideal of perfect love in this section. He is perfect (1 John 3:2,3) and sinless and spotless (Hebrews 9:14.) We are to reflect His image to others.
Both "holy" and "perfect" don't mean we are sinless. (For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23.) It means we have the right motives. It means our heart is in the right place. It means we are set apart to God and for His purposes. We pursue moral perfection. Our eyes are fixed on Jesus. We are becoming more like Him. We aspire to be as much like Christ in our character, holiness, in maturity and in love.
They say one-third of the world's population are Christian. Our Lord and Savior tells us to be perfect. Imagine a world where one out of every three people tries to be perfect in our character. Where we try to be holy people set apart devoted to God's desires. Where our faith has grown to maturity. And where we fervently love others as completely as God loves us. What a world that would be!
And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
1 John 3:3
We become perfect by being fixed on Jesus. This is God's high standard for us. It is His authoritative command to us. Will we be obedient?