For Bible Study Nerds

“Be perfect,” Jesus said, “as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So what does that mean?

In our 21st Century experience, we tend to define “perfect” as meaning “flawless,” or without any kind of shortcoming. “That diamond solitaire is perfect,” we say, “without any inclusion to mar its clarity or brilliance.” But that’s not an appropriate view when it comes to Christ’s command here. His definition was something different, particularly as he applied it to the idea of loving our enemies.

The Greek term for “perfect” that’s transcribed in Matthew 5:48 is teleios, and instead of “flawless,” it means most literally: “finished” or “mature.”

In other words, Christ’s command to love our enemies is not simply a demand that we attempt to achieve a higher standard of behavior. It’s actually a call for us to participate in a Holy Spirit-cultivated growth process by which we continually become more “mature” or “finished” in our ability to genuinely love our enemies. As Dr. Wayne Detzler explains, “Perfection in the New Testament is not a flawless imitation of God. Rather it is a growth into maturity which is discernible as one makes progress in the faith.”

“Be perfect,” Jesus said. If perfection were simply a destination on the moral landscape, that would seem a cruel, impossible command. But it is not that. Christ’s words instead are a beckoning motion, an appeal for you and me to spend our lives on a journey of perfection, continually growing and maturing in his limitless love, one unsteady step at a time.

As we pursue this kind of perfection, we begin to reflect more and more our Father’s “finished” character of love toward our enemies, moving toward maturity in fulfilling God’s purpose within each of us.


Works Cited:

[CWD, 1372; NTW, 307]



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About: Mike Nappa

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