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Many times, when we talk about Christian perfection, there is this general agreement that none of us is perfect. In fact, there many passages of the Bible, which if read correctly, for example Romans 3:10-12, Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3 etc., basically allude to the fact of no one being perfect. However, the Lord Jesus Christ demands perfection from us, and not as one views perfection, but as the Lord is perfect. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” – Matthew 5:48. So the tendency then is to reach the conclusion that perfection is an ongoing thing. We must continue to strive, but we would never be able to achieve perfection. What then is the essence of a law we are not able to achieve? We are asked to be perfect as the Lord is perfect, but there is no human that can achieve the perfection of the Lord. As a matter of fact, this command of our Lord Jesus Christ should motivate us to examine ourselves. We should examine ourselves to find out the sources of our imperfection.
Why can we not be perfect as the Lord is perfect? Of course, the leading reason is because we are not God, we are human. And, because we are human, we are of a sinful nature. Psalm 51:5 says “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” We are able to overcome our sinful nature only by God’s grace. The command to be perfect was given by our Lord Jesus Christ during the sermon on the mount. A cursory look at the context of the sermon leading to this statement in verse 48
reveals to us some of the things that we do which prevent us from being perfect.
In Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus Christ talked about many things that lead us in the way of imperfection. He talked about our anger and he compared it to murder. In our angry moments we also speak angry words, and the Lord said it is as bad as going to hell fire for calling a brother a fool. Holding people captive in our hearts is also one of the ways we exhibit anger, and Christ says it is no use coming to the presence of the Lord with a gift when we are in this state. We must clear our hearts and clear our consciences when
we come into the presence of the Lord. Then in verses 27-28, Jesus Christ said lust is the same as adultery. The thought is as bad as the action. He proceeded to talk about how divorce is not far from adultery. He talked about needless oath-taking or swearing, being vengeful and not loving the same way God loved us.
In all of these it is very clear that the things that lead to imperfection are not just in our actions, but are also evident in our words and in our thoughts. Anyone who wants to be perfect as God is perfect must be ready to have the same kind of thoughts that God has. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” – Jeremiah 29:11. Our thoughts must be devoid of evil, not only the absence of evil but also the presence of good and peace. Our words must also be devoid of evil. Things we say must be things that edify. “A good man brings
good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” – Luke 6:45. If we have evil in our thoughts, our mouths will voice them out. We must mind our tongues. God does not lie, God does not backbite, God does not swear needlessly, God does not boast. If we must be perfect as God is perfect, we cannot afford to exhibit any of these traits. And finally, we must watch our actions. While our actions are motivated by our thoughts, one of the greatest drivers of our actions is love. Jesus wants us to love
indiscriminately the same way our God loves everyone indiscriminately, “that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” – Matthew 5:45. Our actions must always show that we love and that we love everyone. If we want to be perfect as the Lord is perfect, then we must love as the Lord loves.
All of these are not things we can do easily. So this command by our Lord greatly exposes our shortcomings. It shows how inadequate we are. He shows that we have a long way to go. It shows how helpless we are because there are no two ways about it, we are imperfect. But the command is that we must be perfect. This is where grace comes in. We need His grace to be what He wants us to be, but we cannot continue to dwell in sin and expect grace to abound. May His grace be enough for each and every
one of us. – Pastor Simbo Odunaiya