To Be Perfect
Several days ago, I ran across a post on Twitter that my brother shared. I felt compelled to address it this time even though I’ve seen and heard it so many times before.
This is the answer that I prepared along with additional conversation exactly as it was shared with him.
To Be Perfect (Matthew 5:43–48)
For a Christian, what does it mean to be perfect? Answers to this question usually revolve around sin, but what is sin?
From Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary
sin: verb; to do something that is considered wrong according to religious or moral law : to commit a sin [ELL];
1.) a. an offense against religious or moral law; b. an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible; c. an often serious shortcoming: fault
2. ) a. transgression of the law of God; b. a vitiated [faulty, defective] state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God
“Actions by which humans rebel against God, miss His purpose for their life, and surrender to the power of evil rather than to God.” -Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary; p. 1505
In the context of Christianity, what is the “religious” or “moral” law that we are to abide by? People often cite the old testament when referring to Christian law, which is odd to me considering that Jesus spoke pretty plainly about the law and its fulfillment:
Christ Fulfills the Law (Matthew 5: 17–20)
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Here, Jesus is explaining to the people that as good as they think they may be in and of themselves, they’re not good enough. Unless they can do better than those who were the religious elite of the day — who Jesus routinely called out as being hypocrites who weren’t good enough themselves; preventing people from going into the kingdom of heaven and they themselves wouldn’t be going in [Matthew 23 (v. 13 specifically)] — you’d never be good enough.
For the rest of this chapter, He goes on to reveal how deep the sin (the violation of the moral or spiritual law) actually goes and how what was written is really just scratching the surface. (“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 ). The chapter ends with Jesus sharing the requirement for perfection in the sight of God. Love (Matthew 5:43–48; Matthew 22:37).
Further comments from me on what was written to him:
“Added more for you to check out. Possibly done, but I’m not sure. I try not to get caught up in feeling as though I have to write long and drawn out things when it doesn’t take all of that to illustrate the point.
There is a ton of back and forth across scripture that can be done to further reinforce the ideas/thoughts stated, but that’s just icing on the cake I guess.
If you have any questions, let me know. Also, I don’t mean for you to feel as though I’m your only source of instruction or anything like that. I’m just showing you how I go about things and how I try to leave myself open to see what God wants me to see and understand. Remember that you have to always pursue Him for yourself. Help and understanding comes from wherever it comes from, but it doesn’t replace the effort you put into seeking Him for yourself. If it’s the truth, He’ll confirm it.”
ELL is the English Language Learner’s definition. I am a strong believer in “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”