By Charles Price
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.—Matthew 5:48 NIV
If someone told us we have to be perfect … yikes! How do we do that? But that is what Jesus is telling us in the Sermon on the Mount: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” With the exception of Jesus, no one is perfect, nor will ever be perfect, so what does Jesus mean?
To be perfect in what Jesus is saying doesn’t mean to be flawless as we would use the word “perfect” today. It means that we fulfill the purpose for which we were created. For example, if I take my pen and begin writing a letter, you may ask me, “How is the pen?” I would say, “It’s perfect.” What I mean is that the pen does what it’s supposed to do.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a cheap pen or an expensive one. It may be chipped, bitten, and half full of ink, but it’s perfect for the purpose for which it was made. It only matters that it works. When Jesus says, “Be perfect,” He is asking us to be what God created us to be. We were created to be in the likeness of God’s moral image, so that our lives express something of the moral character of God.
We are perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect only to the measure in which His character is being displayed in us. We cannot do this by imitating God, but only by expressing [Him] in us and through us. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” In other words, in this life we will never fully achieve the moral character of God, but that is the end purpose for which the Spirit of God is at work in our lives.
Perfection is about being what God created us to be, and when Jesus said, “Be perfect,” He is saying that despite our failures, sin, and brokenness, we allow God to manifest His character in us, bringing us to an ever-increasing likeness of His moral image.