Living Unto Perfection: Matthew 5:48

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:48 ESV

This is the highest calling of the Christian, a summary of all that Jesus commands his followers to do. It is the Christian life to be perfect, not merely good, or right, or trying with the intention of perfection, but to be perfection itself. It is for this goal that we continue in life.

Matthew five, the sermon on the mount, is a radical exhortation to a new way of living — the Christian life. We are to love those that hate us, even turning the other cheek — an act that is not standing in defiance and taking insults, nor never resisting and not explaining why, but rather a continual offering of forgiveness and reconciliation to those that seek to harm us in love and humility (v. 39). Perhaps even more direct is Jesus’ statement to “throw away” that which would cause us to sin, something that requires continual denial of self and an upward vision towards that which is holy, and good (vv. 29, 30). Perfection is the continual denial of what is natural: vengeance, hate, malice, and other vices of the soul.

For the Christian, the struggle to be perfect is not fought alone. Contrary to this, it is only through the provision of grace that we have any hope of accomplishing perfection in thought and deed. For where we were once slaves to sin (Jn 8:24), it is through grace that we have received hope (Eph 2:8). It is through Christ that the Christian has hope, the hope of the redemption of the body by faith in the propitiatory work of Jesus Christ. Thus, it is no longer through ourselves that we continue in well doing, but rather it is through him that  gives us the strength and the grace needed to actively resist sin. Therefore let us not be weary as we strive for perfection, furthering the sanctification of our souls as we work towards that elusive goal: perfection (Galatians 6:9). It should be all our hopes that at the conclusion of this life we can, and hopefully will be called that “Good and faithful servant” before the one that we call Lord, and Saviour.

Let us always remember that the Christian life is the struggle for perfection, not that perfection can ever be achieved in this life, but rather that through faith we can strive to become more like Christ, united by grace unto him and thus able to achieve what we by ourselves could never achieve, perfection.

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