This battle resonates deeply with me, I know it well. In all these discussions I keep hearing the taunt of Matthew 5:48- “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This verse is like crack for people like me… a challenge to keep going going going and doing doing doing, always striving, never ceasing… but that’s not what Jesus intended these words to mean.
Isn’t that so like Satan to twist words that were meant to encourage & bring life and turn them into a burden, another chore that weighs us down?
I opened my Bible to this verse today and was reminded of grace as I read old notes written in the margins of the page. An arrow from the word perfect to my own scribbling… “the Greek word teleois means complete, full-grown, developing.” But how can you be both complete and still developing? Welcome to the paradox of faith, the mystery of sanctification.
In Christ… we are complete, we are whole, we are perfect. Our scarlet sins & failings have been made white as snow. We are new creations, welcomed to participate in the eternal kingdom of our Father without a second thought. This has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with Him.
Yet in ourselves… we are still developing, still growing and learning. We are a work in progress, battling a war between our spirit and our flesh. So even in this invitation to become more in line with the heart of God, He allows grace for the journey.
If we read this verse in the context of the words prefacing it, it’s really a call to love as God loves… to love as fully and generously as perfectly as He does, without false motives of what we can get in return. THIS is the true invitation of Matthew 5:48.
So we learn to release our expectations for ourselves… we are reminded that our value comes from who we are as a child of God, not how perfectly manicured our lives appear. We are not failures if we didn’t carry out every good intention… we are still His beloved, and we’re learning slowly but surely how to allow our hearts to be shaped like His. We are all a work in progress...