Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. — Matthew 5: 48
Perfection is founded on living up to the expectations of God.
The perfection desired by Jesus is not based on standards set by human beings. The perfection of God transcends human understanding. For example, it is based on the fact that God does not have to improve Himself and that with Him there is no difference whatsoever between His will and His actions (Catechism 3.1.8).
The perfection of God
In Jesus Christ we can experience the perfection of the Father: those who see Jesus see the Father (John 12: 45). In Jesus we experience
- Perfect knowledge. He made a clear distinction between good and evil, and acted accordingly.
- The perfect servant, who fulfilled His commission to the end.
- Perfect love. There is no greater love than that which He showed (John 15: 13).
- Perfect oneness. He was perfectly one with His Father.
In Jesus Christ we have the promise of attaining perfection in His kingdom. He will make it possible for those who accept His word and His grace, and who receive the sacraments, to be like Him at His return (1 John 3: 2).
At the same time, Jesus Christ calls upon us to be perfect already today. He does not require us to be without sin, because no human being can achieve this. To be perfect in the present is to live up to God’s expectations of us perfectly. Today God expects us
- To have the firm resolve to work diligently. Paul had not yet achieved perfection in Christ, but was firmly resolved to attain it, and battled for it to the end (Philippians 3: 12).
- To distinguish perfectly between good and evil. Let us not be like babes when it comes to our ability to discern (Hebrews 5: 12–14). A child might avoid doing something bad for fear of punishment. Those who have attained spiritual maturity will align their lives by the gospel because they are convinced of its perfection.
- To be perfect servants. In order to be perfect, the rich young man would have had to leave his possessions and follow The Lord called upon him to no longer be content with keeping the commandments in the interests of material blessing, but rather follow and serve Him out of love.
- To be perfectly one. Jesus wants those who have come to believe in Him through the word of the Apostles to be perfectly one (John 17: 20–22). God does not expect all of His children to have the same opinion and lifestyle. He merely wants them all to be one in Christ in that they all see the same example in Him and have the same priorities (1 Corinthians 1: 10). Oneness in Christ is a source of perfect joy (Philippians 2: 2).
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday 17 January 2016 at Midrand Congregation.