Brooke Cooney is a pastor's wife, mother of two, and foster-mom of one. To capture the eternal in the everyday, she blogs about family, faith, and lessons along the journey at ThisTemporaryHome.com.
"Have I mislead them?" The question resonated in my mind shortly after posting Looking Back Over a Decade. In this post I wrote, "Perfection is a lie and a snare. 'Be holy as I am holy.' Not, 'Be perfect as I am perfect.'” However, in Matthew 5:48 Jesus instructs his disciples, "You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect." Leviticus 19:2, Deuteronomy 18:13, and 1Peter 1:16 say, "Be holy as I am holy" and "You shall be blameless before the Lord your God."
Are being perfect and holy the same thing?
From studying these scriptures I would answer, "Yes." In Matthew the word perfect aligns with complete or mature, blameless. The Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible teaches that Jesus is not speaking on "degrees of excellence, but of the kind of excellence which was to distinguish His disciples and characterize His kingdom."
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. ~Philippians 3:12-16 (emphasis mine)
We may be tempted to reason, "Why should I work for something I cannot obtain?" First, Christ commanded it. Secondly, our idea of perfect is misconstrued.
Today in the western world perfection looks contrary to living a perfect and holy life. Perfection exudes an image that we have it all, can do it all, and can be the best while doing it. I am a frustrated perfectionist on so many levels. I know the exhausting disappointment that striving for perfection brings. The truth is that the mark for me is unattainable and my attempts silly. I am willing to wager it is the same for you.
Being perfect, holy, complete is a working out of obedience and a working in of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Striving ceases at the cross. Obedient abiding (John 15:5) is the road that leads to a blameless, holy, mature life. That is what our Father calls... perfect.
For the times when our inner landscape is less than our outward appearances and attitudes of holiness His blood covers our sins and His Spirit is waiting to work steadfastness into our souls.
God Himself truly is the "standard" of righteousness. If these individuals are to be righteous, they must be as God is, "perfect," that is, mature (teleioi) or holy. Murder, lust, hate, deception, and retaliation obviously do not characterize God. He did not lower His standard to accommodate humans; instead He set forth His absolute holiness as the standard. Though this standard can never be perfectly met by man himself, a person who by faith trusts in God enjoys His righteousness being reproduced in his life.~ The Bible Knowledge Commentary
Shall we take a walk to His cross?
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