In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said, “You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
For someone who once believed God is only pleased with me if I am good enough, these words trip me up. In my mind perfect means without fault, an unattainable gold medal standard of excellence. I wondered if the words Jesus spoke embody the same connotations we use today.
Is seeking perfection in all things important? Some may argue that pursuing a near perfect standard of excellence at all times provides a good testimony. I do desire excellence in my devotion to Jesus, in prayer and in my relationships, but requiring perfection from myself in every area (whether in parenting, fitness, or maintaining my home) is a burden too much to bear.
When I researched the Greek word for perfect, I was excited to learn that while teleios is often translated perfect, its meaning encompasses the idea of completion, reaching the end, and being perfectly suited for a purpose. Those definitions comfort me because this yoke of perfection Jesus places upon me does not mean I do everything right or that I am always striving to be the best. What it means to me is that God’s Spirit within me will perfectly suit me for the purposes He has for my life. He uses imperfection (including and especially mine) to bring about his perfect will and purposes. Now as I read that verse, instead of encountering a command I can never live up to, I realize this is as an invitation to receive Christ’s perfection as my own.