“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The average reader, sees this and freaks out. The first thought is, “It can’t mean what it says, so I must say what it means!”
You see the word “strive” added in this verse a lot. And yet it’s no where in here in context, nor in Greek. So why would someone add it?
Because they don’t understand it.
Why not take the time to understand it?
Because it invokes fear, fear of failure. How on earth can WE be perfect like God is perfect? We can’t, so I’m doomed to fail. Perhaps if I fail I’m not saved. But I’m told I’m saved no matter what, right? That’s what my pastor says!
So, once threatened, the normal person attacks the source of the fear to make it go away.
You must STRIVE to be perfect. Jesus didn’t mean what he said, so we are going to change it and “fix” it for Him. Lord knows Jesus isn’t competent to say what He meant. Right?
Well, I want to show you what the key words mean, and the context, and maybe do my little bit to stop this perpetually bad teaching.
Perfect, in Greek Teleios, or some variant, at the time of the KJV translation was presented in English as Perfect. Since the KJV only people cause such a stink on any thing they perceive as a change, most translations leave it as perfect it today. It is correct, technically, but does it portray the meaning of the authors?
However, in today’s English, a more fair representation would be, complete, finished, filled, full grown, or mature…. It shows us that there is a growth process, or something with a beginning that is not yet ended if you are “to be” perfect.
This doesn’t help some people. They will still be freaking out over “perfect”. “You mean I’m supposed to grow up to be perfect??? IT CAN NOT HAPPEN!!!!!” Sigh. We have to find a way to let the fear loose to read the text.
Jesus has been talking about HOW TO LOVE since verse 1. At the end of the chapter, he gives a couple of scenarios…
“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
“If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.
“Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
“Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
4 easy examples of ways that are loving as Jesus sees it. Good thing he’s not here to see His church today with the LGBT marriage thing. 5:40, 41, 42 would be thrown into the toilet and flushed. Gotta wonder how He’d react to that. (Hint, there is no judge the person asking for assistance first, hint to these verses…)
So when we get to the last section, in 43-48. We see He coaches, God loves His enemies. Anyone can love those that love them. But God loves His enemies, and that love provides for His enemies. In other words, it manifests into action. It’s not a “thought only” or a “warm fuzzy” sorta love. It’s a love that becomes an action.
Jesus has used GOD as an example of how to love. At the end of that description, when He says, “be perfect like HE is perfect,” remembering the word means MATURE, or full grown, or finished, I think it’s easy to see a more realistic goal here.
Love as completely as God does in the example I gave you above. Stop your selective loving, and love even your’s and God’s enemies, in a way that manifests into action.
There is no UTOPIAN, without flaw, concept at play here. The word doesn’t relate to the Utopian concept at all. That “flavor” of the word has only been with us for less than a coupla hundred years.
At the time of King Jim, and especially the Christ, the concept never existed. A “perfect” boat, could be scratched up, have some leaks, be missing a sail, but if Peter could get in it, and go catch fish and bring them to shore, it would be Perfect.