Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is probably one of His most famous teachings. It’s full of radical teachings like loving and praying for our enemies. But to sum it all up, Jesus concludes with one line: “Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Not a simple command, if you ask me.
If you’re looking at this statement from a moral perspective, this call to perfection is more than a little depressing. Perfection is just impossible. A lot of Christians make this mistake in their desire to be a dedicated follower of Jesus. And in striving to be a perfectly good, moral person, they are quickly defeated. No matter how hard we try, our sin nature continues to raise its ugly head in our lives and defeat this quest for perfection.
But don’t miss the context of what Jesus was saying. All of Jesus’ teachings were about love. And the love He’s talking about is not a feeling, but rather an action. It’s a decision that we make to love others, which brings us back to Jesus’ calling to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12: 30-31).
In other words, Jesus focuses not on us being perfect, but on loving. And even though apart from Jesus, no one is capable of living a morally perfect life – our focus is to be so fully, completely, and perfectly devoted to a relationship with God. And God’s love will overflow into our interactions with others. Yes, even our enemies and those who persecute us.
So, don’t become discouraged when we fall short of perfection, because our goal should be to love God as He loves us – not to live perfect lives. And as we walk with God in relationship, we will see God begin to transform our lives, even helping us love the unlovable.