“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
I hate this verse (can I say that?). I hate it because it hits so close to home; I hate it because it shatters every feeble attempt I make to get things right; and I hate that it exposes the inadequacy of everything I strive to become. There is something innate within me that aches for perfection, yet is forced to settle for average at best. It’s almost as though I was made in the image of something great, but then ruined right around the time I was conceived. I have this strange sort of memory of what it must have been like, a longing for the freedom Eve must have felt of knowing she was “very good,” fully content and at peace, yet not arrogant or prideful.
I understand that, in context, this verse is intended to point out our inadequacy and ultimate need for Christ–to raise the bar to a standard (perfectionism) we can never achieve and then reveal Jesus sitting atop the bar. It is impossible to achieve and arrogant to assume we can. So why does God set us up for this sort of torture, calling us to something we were made for, yet will always fall short of?
I think he does so for several reasons:
1. To show us how BIG he is.
Our vision is incredibly limited, but even in the minute glimpses of life we are able to grasp, not one of us can claim perfection even in single moment, yet God backs up this claim for all of eternity.
2. To call us to something greater than ourselves.
It is far too easy to compare ourselves with one another–it is not difficult to find someone “worse” than us in appearance, in morality, in accomplishment, in intelligence–whatever your measure of worth may be. To compare ourselves with the Living God produces a more accurate sense of inadequacy, sufficient to humble even the most brilliant mind, the greatest beauty, and the most noble character.
3. To plant in us a holy dissatisfaction.
We are far too easily satisfied. Our culture preaches self-esteem as the solution to our inadequacy-self-help and positive thinking may help our exterior, but will never cleanse our souls. To see the reality of Christ in comparison with our inadequacy to imitate Him should breed a Holy Discontent to motivate us to run to him.
4. To create in us a longing for heaven.
How much more wonderful will an eternity of perfection be having experienced a lifetime of chasing it to no end!? We are to groan along with all of creation for His coming back and making everything new and right. This thing we so long to achieve is not wishful thinking, but our hope is in a reality that will one day be actualized. He has conquered sin, satan & death and we will one day reign in victory with him.