09/26 Matthew 5:43-48
Matthew 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is dearly loved, but at the same time it sets such a high standard that it causes quite a few people to give up and reject Christianity altogether. Jesus’ point, of course, was not to cause people to give up, but to make us understand that it is only by grace that we can come to God. We tend either to be conceited, blind to our own sins, or despairing, not accepting the way God has provided to get out of our weakness. This one verse should be the final blow to spiritual conceit, but unfortunately it often is not. Paul is an excellent example for us here, as he so often is. Even though he wrote half the New Testament, he stated very clearly, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14) In other words, he knew very well that he wasn’t perfect yet, but he had full assurance that God could do the job, and that He wasn’t going to stop before it was finished. (Philippians 1:6) Jesus is our example of perfection, and as Christians we bear the title of “little Christs.” That title ceases to be ironic to the degree that we are submitted to Him, aware that we can’t get it right on our own, (John 15:5) but that He can and will get it marvelously right through us, if we will allow Him to do so.
I will never forget the time when a member of Sokagakkai (the Buddhist equivalent of Jehovah’s Witnesses) accosted my mother and me in Fukuoka. (I think I was in about the 7th grade.) He had spotted my mother as a missionary, and he was in attack mode. He brought up the command to love our enemies, directly from The Sermon on the Mount, and used it to say that Christianity demanded impossible things, whereas Sokagakkai did not. My mother countered with a story of some American Christians who had forgiven and adopted a Japanese young man who, as a very young prison camp guard in the closing days of WWII, had deliberately shot and killed their son, who had been a POW. I won’t go into the details, but such an example of loving your enemies effectively shut the Sokagakkai member up. As a pastor I am constantly confronted with human imperfection, my own and others’. I am never to give up, on myself or on anyone else, but realize that we are all totally dependent on the grace and mercy of God, and rejoice in that grace and mercy. I am never to use grace as an excuse to wallow in sin, certainly, (Romans 5:20- 6:2) and I am never to be satisfied with less than the perfection of Christ, but at the same time I am to leave it all in God’s hands, striving toward the goal as Paul did, and expressed so beautifully to the Philippians.
Father, sometimes human imperfection is more in my face than at other times. Help me be so focused on You that Your love will cover it all over (1 Peter 4:8) and bring about Your salvation, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!