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Pointers along the way #659

Be 'perfect'

- Jacob Ninan

By a quirk of the sinful human mind, most people seem to connect this for all practical purposes to how others should be towards them! The others should be understanding, patient, loving, caring, forgiving, listening, spending time with them, helping them, etc.! This is especially true in marriage, and more so in a Christian marriage where expectations tend to go high! It turns out disappointing because nobody is perfect, and the longer we wait for the others to change, the greater our frustration! We have no problem admitting we are not perfect, but we want everyone else to be perfectly accepting and considerate towards us.

In such a state of affairs, what did Jesus mean by asking us to be perfect just as our Heavenly Father is (Mt.5:48)? If we take 'perfect' to mean 'without any fault', it is impossible (1Jn.1:8). But if we look at the context of this verse we can understand that what Jesus meant was that our love should be as broad as God's, not only to those who loved us or who were lovable. What Luke mentions in the same context in his book is that we should be merciful to the others in the same way as God (Lk.6:36). It will be wrong for us to take this phrase 'be perfect' out of context, and broaden it to refer to an impossible level of faultlessness.

Some people take it very personally and feel condemned practically all the time because they find themselves imperfect. Strive as they might, they always find themselves coming short of their own expectations. This takes away their boldness before God and people and some of them constantly question their experience of salvation.

God asked Abraham to walk before Him and 'be perfect' (Ge.17:1). Most modern translations avoid using this word 'perfect' for fear of misleading people and substitute with 'blameless'. To be 'blameless' is more within our reach because it implies that we must intend well in our heart and not have wrong intentions in whatever we do. We are told to press on towards perfection (He.6:1) or maturity. This does not mean that we ought to become perfect and without fault while we are on earth but that we should be moving slowly but steadily in the direction of perfection. In other words, this means that we need to take our sanctification seriously by which we become more and more like Jesus, or perfect.

Once this is understood and grasped, we need to reckon with the fact that as long as we live here we are going to meet with imperfection all around us and inside us too. This is the practical balance. Pressing on towards perfection and expecting to face everything still imperfect in many ways! For example, working towards a better marriage and still dealing with an imperfect one. Working out our sanctification so that we become more like Jesus and at the same time bearing with others who are not like Jesus in many ways just as we are. In all this, we can seek to keep our heart right with God, blameless and with only good intentions towards everyone.


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