Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

In a discussion I had with a non-Christian the topic of Christ’s sermon on the Mount came up, and I got this question: “Why does Christ command us to be perfect, when he knows it to be impossible?”

I didn’t have much of an answer back then, nut I hope my answer here will be better. The answer I gave him, and which I to some point still believe, is that this was a hyperbolic saying, meaning that he exaggerated to make a point — that we are called to be like our Father in heaven, but that we cannot do this on our own.

Yes, we are called to be — become — like our Father in heaven. But how can we do that? Only through Christ. Well, back to my main point. What is the greek word behind “perfect”?(1) The word is teleios. According to Strong’s concordance, teleios has many different meanings: “brought to its end, finished,” “wanting nothing necessary to completeness,” “perfect,” “consummate human integrity and virtue,” “full grown, adult, of full age, mature.”

In order to understand this, we must read it through the “lense of God.” In Matthew 6:33, Christ says; “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” By seeking the kingdom of God, we know what Matthew 5:48 means. I believe that we are called to beome like Christ, in Heaven, and that Christ really calls us to focus on this. It doesn’t mean that will become perfect in this life, but that we will become that in Heaven. While we are hear, we must strive towards it, constantly reminding ourselves that this is only possible by the Grace of God.

And when we come to Heaven, and reach our telios, our goal, our happiness, we will encounter the light of God, and thus become “perfect, even as (our) Father which is in heaven is perfect.” As John puts it: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1John 3:2)

Notes:

1. It should be noted that this verse is most likely translated from latin, or that one has used the Vulgate as an inspiration. The word used there is perfectus, which in fact do not imply “perfect,” in our modern usage of the word. The dictionary tells us that “perfect” come from Old French perfet, from lat. perfectus, which means not “perfect,” but “completed,” from the verb perficere, from per, “through, completely” + facere, “do.”

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