Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48 (NIV 1984)
Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. 2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV 1984)
Perfection seems like such an impossible goal. How could Jesus or Paul set this before us as something to be pursued, much less attained? Are you kidding me? Come on – get real!
If we understand this goal of perfection as sinless perfection, then it truly is an unattainable pursuit. Though we are hopefully making progress daily in our battle against sin, we are under no illusion that we will attain sinlessness until we exit this body and live in heaven.
So, what is the aim here?
Paul helps bring some deeper understanding when he speaks of the goal of his ministry in Colossians 1:28. “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (NIV 1984) The word ‘perfect’ here actually means mature. Paul’s goal was to seek to bring all those he ministered to into a state of maturity in Christ.
Thus, when Jesus says we are to ‘be perfect,’ He is saying that we are to be mature in our relationship with our Father – especially in how we love others (see the context of Matthew 5). When Paul exhorts the Corinthians to ‘aim for perfection,’ he is encouraging their pursuit of maturity in Christ, not some sinless perfection.
Peter encourages us all, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV 1984) We are to grow up in our salvation to maturity in Christ. This pursuit is grounded in developing intimacy with Jesus, especially as we spend time with Him in His Word.
Perfect maturity in Christ is attainable. It will be found over a life-long pursuit of Him – being filled with His Spirit and knowing Him and His ways as we know the Bible and apply it to our life and leadership. Maturity is not necessarily a factor of age, but rather a result of spending time with the Lord.
So….. how’s your aim?